Religion Bulletin, June 2023: Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ Accused of Being a Reactionary Organization after Dak Lak Incident

“Systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom continue.

Religion Bulletin, June 2023: Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ Accused of Being a Reactionary Organization after Dak Lak Incident

[Crisis in Dak Lak Province]

Two Commune Police Stations Attacked in Dak Lak Province

At midnight on June 11, 2023, a group attacked the People's Committee headquarters of Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes, killing nine people, including four police officers, two senior commune officials, and three residents. [1]

By June 23, 2023, Dak Lak provincial police had prosecuted 84 individuals, of which 75 were prosecuted for anti-government terrorism. Videos released by the authorities show the suspects were nearly all Montagnards. [2]

Although authorities have posted videos of the suspects’ confessions across the media, the motive behind the attack on the two headquarters remains unclear.

The Central Highlands is a very troubled area in terms of religion, land disputes, and ethnic discrimination. The Montagnards in this area have experienced many events that have led to losses of their land, their traditional beliefs, and their religious freedom.

On June 22, 2023, the Ministry of Public Security’s Bureau of Homeland Security reported that among the arrested suspects, one was sent to Vietnam by a U.S.-based organization to "stage the attack." [3]

The United States received many Montagnard refugees after 1975. The Vietnamese government regularly accuses Montagnard organizations in the United States of undermining security in Vietnam, especially through religious activities. In early 2001, huge Montagnard protests erupted in the Central Highlands over religion, land, and ethnic discrimination. These protests lasted until 2008, with many Montagnards arrested and sentenced to prison.

Dak Lak: Police Accuse Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ of Being a Reactionary Organization

On June 18, 2023, the Dak Lak provincial police YouTube channel published a report accusing the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ of being a reactionary organization. [4]

The video was posted simultaneously with videos of the deadly attacks on two commune People's Committees in Dak Lak Province.

Despite such accusations, the video only states that practitioners had been trained to document and compile reports on violations of human rights, religious freedom, and other civil society skills. The video clearly depicted peaceful human rights activities rather than the use of force against state agencies. [5]

The Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ remains unrecognized by the government today, and members have been accused of being reactionary and anti-state. Recently, a number of church members were arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” and “undermining national unity”.

While independent Protestant groups in the Central Highlands have been banned from operating, state media still propagates the notion that Montagnards are guaranteed religious freedom.

In June 2023, VOV e-newspaper claimed that citizens of faith in the Central Highlands are always guaranteed the right to freedom of belief and religion. [6]

The article asserted that authorities in the Central Highlands provinces consistently met religious organizations' and individuals' legal and legitimate needs and aspirations.

In May 2023, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom affirmed in its annual report that the Vietnamese government harassed, disrupted, and banned the peaceful religious activities of unregistered Montagnard Protestant groups. [7]

Further reading: Government accusations against the Evangelical Church of Christ regarding the Central Highlands incident are baseless

[New Religions]

Ha Tinh: More than 1,300 Phap Mon Dieu Am (“Dharma of Miraculous Sound”) Documents Confiscated

On June 7, 2023, the Cau Treo International Border Gate Border Guard Station in Ha Tinh province reported that it had seized more than 1,300 documents and propaganda items teaching the Phap Mon Dieu Am (Dharma of Miraculous Sound) religion from Vietnamese individuals entering the country from Laos. [8]
Authorities seize 1,306 documents and items propagating the Dieu Am Phap Mon (Dharma of Miraculous Sound) religion at the Cau Treo International Border Gate. Source: Kinh Te & Do ThiEconomy and Metropolis) e-newspaper.

In addition, authorities discovered a list of 141 individuals participating in the “Phap Mon Dieu Am” organization on a passenger's computer.

It was reported that the confiscated documents belonged to nearly 500 people who had traveled to Thailand from north Vietnam to participate in a religious retreat. Before returning, these individuals had purchased the documents.

The border guard station also discovered another five passengers carrying four books, 10 notebooks, and seven USB sticks containing “Phap Mon Dieu Am” literature in a second vehicle.

Border guards stated that all the seized documents were destroyed to prevent distribution.

Phap Mon Dieu Am is one of the new religions developing in Vietnam. The sect was founded by a Vietnamese citizen who had to organize courses outside the country due to a government ban. To this day, authorities prohibit new religions, despite demand from countless citizens.

Bao Lam District (Cao Bang Province): Authorities Summarize Height of 90-day Campaign to Eliminate Duong Van Minh Religion

On June 23, 2023, Bao Lam district authorities (Cao Bang Province) organized a conference to summarize the height of a 90-day campaign to eliminate the “illegal” Duong Van Minh organization from the area. [9]
The Bao Lam District Party Committee (Cao Bang Province) commends individuals who suppressed the Duong Van Minh religion. Photo: Cao Bang Radio and Television Station.

At the conference, the Bao Lam District Party Committee announced that the whole district had dismantled seven funeral homes and 85 white screens and forced 352 people to sign pledges renouncing the Duong Van Minh organization.

The campaign to eliminate the Duong Van Minh religion is being carried out in accordance with Resolution #78, issued in November 2021, which approved the “Project to fight, prevent, and eventually eliminate the illegal Duong Van Minh organization.”

The government's will to abolish the Duong Van Minh religion across Cao Bang Province demonstrates that Vietnam is systematically and resolutely working to eliminate a minority religious group.

Further reading: Persecution of the Duong Van Minh religion: three issues the government must clarify

Meo Vac District (Ha Giang Province): Government Mobilizes Residents to Abandon the San Su Khe To Religion

At the beginning of June 2023, commune and township authorities in Meo Vac District (Ha Giang Province) jointly mobilized residents to renounce the San Su Khe To religion. [10]

It has been reported that this campaign is part of the Ha Giang Provincial Party Committee’s Project #23-DA/TU, issued on November 23, 2018, to prevent, fight, and address the activities of false and novel religions in the province from 2018 - 2025.
Sung Tra Commune authorities in Meo Vac District mobilize residents to abandon the San Su Khe To religion. Photo: Ha Giang Province Radio and Television Station.

As such, the government has mobilized the entire political system from district to commune to advocate and mobilize households who are following the San Su Khe To religion to return to their traditional customs.

To date, authorities have forced 44 households in six communes to renounce the San Su Khe To religion.

Lang Son provincial police reported that the San Su Khe To religion was introduced into Hmong and Dao ethnic communities in Vietnam from China. It is a modified Protestant religion and is also known as Trinitarian Christianity. In 2022, there were about 5,000 people, mainly from the Dao ethnic group, who practiced the religion. [11]

The government accuses practitioners of organizing nine disruptive mass gatherings and believes the religion should be banned because it allegedly causes residents to abandon their traditional customs.

Ministry of Public Security: 85 Individuals from the World Mission Society Church of God Prosecuted

The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) reported that it handled 12 violations and 85 subjects related to the World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCG) in the first six months of 2023. [12]

At a press conference on June 30, 2023, MPS stated that the WMSCG operates according to the principles of heresy, superstition, and abuse of doctrine to deceive and take advantage of others.

In mid-May 2023, a series of state-owned newspapers published articles warning people of WMSCG groups operating vigorously across many provinces and cities. [13]

To this day, the government regularly accuses the church of committing heresy, defrauding the people, and destroying traditions and families. However, no case has ever been officially investigated and adjudicated in court.

[Religion 360*]

USCIRF: Vietnam Improves Religious Freedom, but Trouble Spots Continue to Worsen

On June 12, 2023, vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Frederick A. Davie, noted that although Vietnam has achieved incremental improvements in religious freedom over the years, there were still significant and growing trouble spots. [14]

According to the statement, he and his staff traveled to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from May 15 to 19, 2023, to meet with government officials, religious communities, and other civil society representatives to discuss concerns related to religious freedom.

Davie expressed particular concern about the increased incidents of forced renunciation of faith in the past year, the restrictive nature of the Law on Belief and Religion, and the complex and burdensome procedures that are inconsistently and unevenly applied across the country.

He also expressed concern about two draft religion decrees issued in June 2022 to implement the Law on Belief and Religion. Experts warn that these two documents could further restrict religious freedom if adopted and applied in practice.

Since 2002, USCIRF has recommended that Vietnam be classified as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), recognizing that despite some notable areas of improvement, “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom continue. In November 2022, the U.S. Department of State placed Vietnam on a Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom.


1. Thông tin số người hi sinh và thiệt mạng trong vụ tấn công hai trụ sở UBND xã ở Đắk Lắk. (n.d.). [Video]. TUOI TRE ONLINE.

2. Online T. T. (2023, June 23). Vụ tấn công 2 trụ sở UBND xã: Khởi tố 84 bị can, điều tra tội khủng bố 75 bị can. TUOI TRE ONLINE.

3. Hưởng N. (2023, June 22). Vụ Đắk Lắk: Bắt đối tượng từ Mỹ xâm nhập về Việt Nam dàn dựng vụ tấn công.


5. Thanh Nguyễn. (2023, June 26). Chính quyền thiếu cơ sở khi cáo buộc Hội thánh Tin Lành đấng Christ trong vụ việc Tây Nguyên. Luật Khoa.

6. Dương Thúy Thịnh. (2023, June 27). 2,3 triệu đồng bào có đạo ở Tây Nguyên được đảm bảo quyền tự do tín ngưỡng, tôn giáo. Báo điện tử VOV.

7. Annual Report of The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, (2023, April). UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

8. Văn Chương. (2023, June 7). Hà Tĩnh: Thu giữ trên 1.300 tài liệu “Pháp môn Diệu âm”. Báo điện tử Kinh tế & Đô thị.

9. Hạnh Mai, Lãnh Trọng. (2023, June 24). Bảo Lâm: Hội nghị tổng kết cao điểm 90 ngày thực hiện mục tiêu xóa bỏ tổ chức bất hợp pháp Dương Văn Mình. Đài Phát thanh – Truyền hình Cao Bằng.

10. Hà Linh.(2023, June 3). Mèo Vạc: Tổ chức cho các hộ gia đình theo tà đạo ký cam kết quay lại phong tục, tập quán truyền thống. Đài phát thanh và truyền hình tỉnh Hà Giang.

11. Hiện tượng tôn giáo mới “San sư khẻ tọ” trong vùng đồng bào dân tộc Mông, Dao hiện nay. (n.d.).

12. Minh Đức, Nam Phạm. (2023, June 30). Xử lý 12 vụ, 85 đối tượng hoạt động theo Hội Thánh Đức Chúa Trời Mẹ. Báo Thanh niên.

13. Hồ Đan. (2023, June 23). Tôn giáo tháng 5/2023: Chính quyền bắt giữ tín đồ, Mỹ lên án gay gắt Việt Nam về tự do tôn giáo. Luât Khoa.

14. USCIRF Delegation Travels to Vietnam to Assess Religious Freedom Conditions. (2023, June 12). USCIRF.

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