The Police Department of Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai said the demolition campaign of an “evil cult” which aims to restore FULRO was De Ga Protestantism, was one of its outstanding achievements at the 2020 work summary conference and implementation of the 2021 work program.
The conference took place in Pleiku city, Gia Lai province, where the Ha Mon religion was first heard of in 2013.
In May 2016, the Cong An newspaper operated by the Ministry of Public Security has an article titled “The truth about the so-called Our Lady appearing in Ha Mon or the Ha Mon sect” in the Kon Tum-Gia Lai areas. The article accused the sect of being a religious organization operating illegally and adversely affecting the people and complicating the local security and orders.
The local media at that time said that some subjects were linked and directed by outside reactionary forces to restore the FULRO force, which was a reactionary organization specializing in destroying the great national unity bloc contrary to the interests of the country and the nation.
An anonymous person from the R’Ngao ethnic group where the Ha Mon religion originated, told RFA that he was ‘lucky‘ not to be arrested and never dared to admit that he had believed in the Ha Mon religion:
“Many people have been arrested, this Ha Mon religion is a forbidden religion and the local authorities strive to arrest all its followers. Many people in the village were too afraid and fled into the forest but they also chased and arrested. According to my, this Ha Mon religion is good, does not oppose the government nor undermines the policy of national unity of Vietnam. Ha Mon sect only worships God and Mother Mary, not against the government at all.”
An unnamed ethnic woman said that Ha Mon is a sage, and the people here are so scared when they hear about the word FULRO or De Ga that they really do not understand what it is and how dangerous it is.
Regarding the details of the last Ha Mon followers being arrested as reported by the Cong An newspaper, this ethnic woman said that if the newspaper does not announce it, no one will know anything about the Ha Mon religion being wiped out by the government.
RFA tried to connect the long-distance line to the local police in Sa Thay district, Kon Tum province, but the line was busy all the time.
Many people have been arrested. This Ha Mon religion is a forbidden religion. Its followers are arrested. Many people in the village were too afraid and fled into the forest but they also chased and arrested.
Pastor Aga who used to live in Sa Thay, belongs to the Central Highlands Christian group. He was forced by Vietnam’s authorities to give up his religion so he had to flee to Thailand and was accepted by the US to settle in the US in 2018. According to him, the Ha Mon religion was created by an ethnic R’Ngao woman named Ygyin, who lives in Ha Moong village, Ha Ra commune, Sa Thay district, Kom Tum province.
“Ygyin said she saw Mary present in her place because that was why she let the villagers know. Then they set up a group to worship Mary, named Catholicism Ha Mon. Ms. Ygyin preached in many places in Kom Tum, after that she went to Gia Lai and Dak Lak. There are many true followers of Ha Mon Catholicism.”
“In August 2013, the government charged her with 3 years in prison, the others to 8 years, some 9 years, some 11 years, even some 17 years.”
“The authorities believe that Ha Mon religion collided with FULRO exiles in foreign countries with the purpose to establish the ‘De Ga autonomy state.’ Actually, Ha Mon Catholics only believe and worship Mary for the salvation of their souls.”
According to the content on the VOV Vietnam network on May 16, 2016, Ms. YGyin uses a religious name and fabricated the story of “Our Lady’s Appearance” in Ha Mon to propagate and entice others to gather and pray. She was said to incite followers to oppose the relocation of ethnic minorities to a new place by the government of Kon Tum province to facilitate the construction of the Plei Krong hydropower dam.
The article said that because of a lack of understanding, many people obeyed but refused to move to the resettlement area. They set up tents and camps on the banks of the river to gather and pray.
Facing this situation, VOV continued, the authorities of Kon Tum province had to expose Ms. Y Gyin’s deception and wrongdoing and some leading individuals.
Asked whether ethnic Ha Mon people escaped into the forest and then crossed the border out of the country, have colluded with FULRO to establish the “De Ga autonomy State,” Pastor Aga said that not only the Ha Mon sect but even his Central Highlands Protestant Church was also charged with similar allegations.
“The government falsely accuses independent religious groups of being reactionary groups with the purpose of establishing an autonomous state. FULRO does not exist anymore, there is no FULRO here anymore. If any religion does not follow their will, they find everything to slander. Even like the Central Highlands Protestant congregation they also call it a bad sect. If we do not follow them, they consider us opposing them.”
Regarding the question of whether any ethnic Ha Mon people have fled to Thailand to avoid persecution, Pastor Aga said:
“As for the Ha Mon religion, there is no one running through Thailand. They are persecuted, tortured, jailed, but they don’t know where to flee.”
“The second one, the Ha Mon religion disintegrates today because there is no one who can help speak up for them. The matter of Ha Mon Catholicism at that time I have gathered information but confess that it is not sufficient because the police in Dak Doa prevented our brothers from going to Ha Ra commune. That is why the report on Ha Mon religion is not complete.”
Ha Mon religion and De Ga Protestantism really have nothing to do with FULRO. De Ga is another name for Montagnards, ie people from the Upper Highlands. The Vietnamese government, especially the police, often label Protestant or Catholic groups that are not under their leadership as FULRO.
Ha Mon sect, which the state-controlled media called the Ha Mon heresy phenomenon, did not do any move against the government, but they opposed the construction of a hydropower dam in their land- in fact, just a natural reaction of the low-throat ethnic people who were displaced by Plei Krong hydropower plant, is the judgment of Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, Executive Director of BPSOS. He has participated in hearings about freedom of religion in the US Congress:
“This Ha Mon Dao is an independent religious group in the Central Highlands. The Vietnamese government considers it an evil cult and tries to eliminate it. Most recently, Gia Lai province boasted that they had captured the last followers of the Ha Mon religion.”
After 1975, the ethnic minority armed force named FULRO ceased to exist:
“FULRO, or the Unified Front of Oppressed Races, after 75 a group of several hundred Montagnards refused to surrender and lived in the forest for about 20 years,” said Thang.
“Until the UN Peace Corps entered Cambodia to prepare for the general election, these people presented themselves. All of these people have already gone to America, so there is no FULRO movement. The Vietnamese government keeps relying on it to justify the repression of the Central Highlands’ ethnic minorities, especially the Protestant Central Highlands.
In 2017, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF for short, playing an important role in advising Congress as well as the US executive on the situation of religious freedom in countries around the world, launched a new campaign called Prisoners of Conscience of Religion, highlighting cases of persecution of faith or violations of freedom of belief in countries where the Vietnamese name is mentioned.
The US State Department’s annual report on world religious freedom and Human Rights Watch keep Vietnam as a country that continues the persecution of religion and faith in a systematic way, especially among the ethnic minorities in the country.