Contact: Helen Cruz- Tele. (202) 543-1444
May 21, 2011, Dien Bien Province, Vietnam, Phongsali, Laos, and Washington, D.C. -- The Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) has unleashed attack helicopters on unarmed Vietnamese civilians and those suspected of participating in mass rallies involving an estimated 8,500 Viet-Hmong protesters, including thousands of Catholic, Protestant Christian and animist religious believers seeking human rights and land reforms. Today, newly deployed squadrons of MI-24 “Hind” helicopter gunships flew bloody combat sorties against ethnic Hmong villagers and protesters fleeing into the rugged interior of Dien Bien province and across the border into Laos, according to the Center for Public Policy Analysis and Hmong and Vietnamese sources in Vietnam and Laos.
An estimated thirty-four (34) Soviet-era “HIND” MI-24 assault helicopters remain in the SRV’s current arsenal. Older MI-8 helicopters have also been deployed. Special units of the Vietnam People’s Army, including “Dac Cong” special forces units with Viet-Hmong translators, have been mobilized to assist heliborne troops in tracking, arresting, interogating and summarily executing suspected Hmong demonstrators who have fled into the rugged interior.
“Our Hmong people are being attacked without mercy and killed and wounded by the helicopters sent from Hanoi to machine gun and bomb their villages and pursue them into the mountains and jungles of Dien Bien province in Vietnam and Laos,” said Christy Lee, Executive Director for Hmong Advance, Inc.
Ms. Lee stated further: "Some Vietnamese clerics with ties to the Vietnamese Ministry of Interior, and secret police, have join Vietnamese government officials in declaring that all of the Hmong protestors are cult members and irredentists, a theme often repeated by Hanoi’s state-run media, and parroted by the official propaganda apparatus, to justify the use of armed force against ethnic Hmong-Vietnamese and Vietnamese Christians who have previously joined peaceful Catholic and mainstream Protestant demonstrations, including demonstrations in Hanoi in previous years for religious freedom and government reforms. "
“What have the Viet-Hmong people done wrong that would allow them to be slaughtered and attacked by the Vietnamese military and police, and why has the government in Hanoi escalated the attacks with these new helicopters being deployed against many innocent Catholic, mainstream Protestant Christians and Animist believers who participated in recent protests,” Ms. Lee said.
“Many of the Hmong Catholics and other Christian believers, gathered, in part, on May 1st in honor of Pope John Paul’s beatification and in support of land reforms and religious freedom,” Ms. Lee said. http://www.onlineprnews.com/news/139559-1305659370-vietnam-forces-kill-72-hmong-hundreds-arrested-and-flee.html
“Do they deserve to be attacked by armed force by the Army for their non-violent appeals for civil rights, human rights and reform?” Ms. Lee questioned.
"On the Laos side of the border, next to Dien Bien province, Vietnam People's Army troops, and special advisors and police, are active and working with the Lao People's Army, along the Vietnam-Laos border area in the Laotian provinces of Luang Prabang and Phongsali, to help with military operations to seal the border area off from independent journalists and newsmedia and to arrest or attack the Hmong who have attempted to flee," said Bounthanh Rathigna of the United League for Democracy in Laos (ULDL). http://www.onlineprnews.com/news/136891-1304943947-vietnam-army-kills-14-more-hmong-prostesters-hundreds-more-missing.html
“The General Staff of Vietnam's armed forces and the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi, including General Phung Quang Thanh, appear to be alarmed and have apparently ordered the deployment of significant numbers of the very lethal MI-24 attack helicopters to fly additional strafing and bombing sorties against the Hmong people fleeing Vietnam's military crackdown in the Dien Bien province area,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C. http://www.centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org
“M-24 ‘Hind” attack helicopters are now being deployed by Hanoi to fire their machine guns and launch deadly rockets at the Hmong who are fleeing into the rugged mountain interior of Dien Province and across the border into Laos,” Smith said.
“Today, two Hmong mountain villages, and several enclaves, in Vietnam were attacked by helicopter gunships and we are awaiting final casualty figures since there were more killed and many wounded in the havoc and the aftermath of the aerial bombardment.” “Viet-Hmong casualties and those arrested by Vietnam People's Army soldiers continue to mount with each passing day as the military continues its bloody crackdown and security operations in Dien Bien province have intensified,” Smith stated.
“Vietnam's Minister of Defense, General Phung Quang Thanh, and others in the military and politburo, are concerned about mass demonstrations spreading to the general population who may also appeal for reforms, greater freedom and regime change in Vietnam and Laos,” Smith commented.
Smith explained: “By pursuing a policy of using overwhelming, violent, armed force against the peaceful Hmong demonstrators, Communist party officials and the military elite in Vietnam are hoping to bring things to a rapid conclusion in the Dien Bien area, but they cannot control the crisis situation because of the mountainous terrain and determination of many of the Vietnamese and Hmong demonstrators who have dispersed. What if the demonstrations in Dien Bien, and their demands for reform, spread to other parts of Vietnam and Laos ? Cozy Communist party officials in Hanoi fear that the ethnic Hmong and other minority populations in the Hanoi and Red River Delta area, and other parts of Vietnam, will join together with other ordinary Vietnamese citizens in calling for greater religious freedom, human rights, political reforms and in opposition to corrupt and draconian government policies, including the recent violence directed against the Viet-Hmong Christians and other citizens in Dien Bien.”
“We are also concerned that the Lao People's Army, lead by Vietnamese troops and advisors, has mobilized in Luang Prabang Province and the Phongsali area in Laos, in support of the efforts to seal off Dien Bien province to journalists and assist in interdicting and capturing Hmong demonstrators fleeing Vietnam,” Smith concluded.
Vietnam has sealed key areas of Dien Bien province off to independent journalists as it continues military operations against targeting the Viet-Hmong citizens who engaged in peaceful, non-violent protests that began earlier this month. Protesters were demanding greater religious freedom, land reform, human rights and an end to illegal logging and the exploitation of their lands and resources by Vietnam People's Army-owned companies.