The Lack of Supporting Evidence in the Vietnamese Government's Accusations Against the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ in the Central Highlands

The Lack of Supporting Evidence in the Vietnamese Government's Accusations Against the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ in the Central Highlands
Graphic: Tuy Phong/ Luat Khoa Magazine

This article was published in Luat Khoa Magazine on June 26, 2023. Lee Nguyen translated this into English.

The Dak Lak Provincial Police's YouTube channel recently released a series of videos that showcased the shooting incidents that occurred at police stations within the province, featuring videos of the suspects making self-confessions.

Along with these posts, the channel also uploaded another video about the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands – a religious organization that the Vietnamese government accuses of being subversive and reactionary. As a result, the state does not allow the group to legally operate in the country. [1]

Viewers who may be unfamiliar with the organization could mistakenly associate it with the recent violent attacks. However, it is important to seek the truth about this group.

The Suspects Have Not Admitted to Having Religious Motivations for the Attack

The authorities have yet to determine the specific motive behind the attack in Dak Lak Province on June 11, 2023.

No conclusive information is currently available to confirm that the attack in Dak Lak Province were motivated by religion. The suspects did not mention anything about religion in their confessions. They simply stated that they conspired to assault the police stations.

The fact that the official YouTube channel of the Dak Lak Provincial Police posted a feature on the church while the investigation was ongoing, especially without clear evidence of the groups involvement, is intentional and could lead to a distorted public perception.

The Lack of Evidence to Accuse the Montagnard Evangelical Church

In the video about the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands, the Dak Lak Provincial Police accused the church of being a subversive reactionary organization that incites individuals to overthrow the government.

However, the video does not provide any specific evidence for these accusations.

In the video, one person claims to have participated in online human rights courses organized by the Church's members in the United States. They state that the ultimate goal of these courses is to overthrow the Vietnamese government.

Despite such allegations, the video only mentions that the group’s believers were taught how to write reports on violations of human rights and religious freedom, received training in civil society activities, and collected information on human rights violations.

These are peaceful activities that do not incite the use of force or violence against the state.

Another person, who claimed to be a pastor, states that the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands originated from Dega Christianity. In the past, Dega Christianity attempted to overthrow the Vietnamese government and to establish a self-governing Dega regime, but aside from this historical fact, no specific evidence is provided.

The Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands is currently one of the religious organizations facing heightened scrutiny from the Vietnamese government. Recently, several Church members have been arrested on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, lawful rights, and interests of organizations and/or citizens," under Article 331 of Vietnam's Penal Code.

The Truth About the Online Human Rights Courses

The video released by the Dak Lak Provincial Police featured the image of Nguyen Dinh Thang, the executive director and chairman of BPSOS (Boat People SOS), a human rights organization based in the United States.

BPSOS is responsible for conducting the courses mentioned for the members of the church.

In an interview with Luat Khoa Magazine, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang refuted the allegations of his organization teaching church members to overthrow the Vietnamese government, emphasizing that these claims are entirely fabricated. BPSOS initiated these courses in 2015 with the aim of strengthening the capacity to protect the rights of community organizations.

He said, "The condition for participating in the courses is absolutely non-violence, not causing harm to oneself or others, not participating in any political organization or party, not attending events or activities of political organizations or parties.”

These courses help learners understand their rights, report human rights violations according to Vietnamese and international law, understand how to manage social projects and gain practical skills. Thang believes that the content is commonplace and can be found in any university in the United States. BPSOS only adapts them to better suit Vietnam’s social and political context

The Church Perceived as a Threat to the Party and the State

Pastor Aga, the founder of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ of the Central Highlands, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that his Church, like other denominations of the Evangelical faith, has no intention to undermine the state. [2]

In 2012, Aga and his family sought refuge in Thailand after experiencing religious oppression by the Vietnamese government.

In 2018, when they were detained by Thai police for deportation to Vietnam, the U.S. government intervened, facilitating their resettlement in the United States.

When asked why the Vietnamese government has heightened suppression of the church, Nguyen Dinh Thang responded by highlighting that the church had submitted numerous reports on human rights violations to the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, and various embassies in Vietnam.

"The Vietnamese Communist Party and government do not accept any organization of the people that enhances internal strength and international standing; they view them as a challenge to their monopoly of leadership,” emphasized Thang.

The Vietnamese Government’s Methods for Suppressing Religious Organizations

The Vietnamese government is adept at suppressing religious organizations. Monopolizing the media and restricting the independent press have made it easy for the government to disseminate false information.

The government's goal is to eliminate independent and self-organized religious groups that are difficult to control, even if the organization's activities are purely religious.

Religious groups that speak out about human rights are accused of being anti-state and causing division among the great unity bloc of the people.

Even religious organizations that engage purely in religious activities and turn a blind eye to the actions of the state cannot escape oppression. For example, the World Mission Society Church of God is accused of going against traditional worship practices and deceiving people into donating money based on their income. However, this is a widespread practice in most religions all over the world.

The Vietnamese government also accuses various religious groups of "complicating the security situation,” as in the case of the Dương Văn Mình religion. This religion's followers engage in peaceful religious activities but the government often accuses them of being a threat to national security, as a pretext to suppress and eradicate this religion.

The Vietnamese government's actions and lack of tolerance for religious freedom only results in rising tensions and conflicts within the nation itself.


1. An Ninh Trật Tự Đắk Lắk. (2023, June 18). Vạch Bộ Mặt Phản Động Của Tổ Chức Hội Thánh Tin Lành Đấng Christ Tây Nguyên [Video]. Youtube.

2. Rfa. (2023, April 10). Mục sư Aga: Hội thánh Tin lành Đấng Christ Tây Nguyên không phải là tổ chức phản động. Radio Free Asia.

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