Vietnamese Montagnard Ends Prison Term, Goes Home in Failing Health

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
Y Ngun Knul (L) is shown with his wife and children after his release from prison in an undated photo.
Y Ngun Knul (L) is shown with his wife and children after his release from prison in an undated photo.
State Media

A Vietnamese ethnic minority Montagnard jailed for almost 16 years for demanding land rights and religious freedom has completed his prison term and returned home in failing health, the Central Highlands resident said, speaking to RFA on Thursday.

Y Ngun Knul was sentenced in in 2004 in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province to an 18-year term, later reduced, for launching protests calling for a Protestant church shut down by authorities to be reopened and for the members of his community to be allowed to live according to their traditions.

“As those rights were being taken away, people were becoming upset, and so I called on everyone to take part in the protests. As a result, I was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison,” Knul said, speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

Held at Nam Ha and Thanh Chuong prisons in faraway Nghe An province, Knul was visited by his family only four times during his time behind bars, he said.

His family meanwhile lost their house and land. And now, suffering from poor health because of his time in prison, he is unsure about his future, he said.

“I have kidney failure and high blood pressure and had a gastrointestinal hemorrhage,” he said, adding, “Now I can eat only bowl of rice per day because I have stomach problems that make it hard for me to breathe.”

“My foot is swelling, too, making it hard for me to move.”

“I would like to go to a hospital for treatment, but I have no money now,” he said.

Many die after release

Also speaking to RFA, Nguyen Van Hai—a U.S.-based blogger held for a time with Knul at the Thanh Chuong prison—said that prisoners from Vietnam’s Central Highlands see their families only rarely, and that many who suffer ill health in prison live for only a few weeks after their release.

Knul himself was beaten by guards, who kicked him in the stomach, and his body bore many scars, Nguyen said.

Writing on her Facebook page on Feb. 28, Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh—wife of jailed journalist Truong Minh Duc, also held at Thanh Chuong—appealed for financial support for Knul and his wife and children, saying the family is now homeless and has been abused by local authorities.

During the Vietnam War, the Montagnards fought alongside U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam's remote Central Highlands.

Hundreds have fled their country in recent years and crossed the border into Cambodia, citing oppression by the Vietnamese government, religious persecution of the mainly Christian minority, and expropriation of their land.

Many have since been forced home, ending their hopes for resettlement and a better life.

In the lead-up to a European Union-Vietnam human rights dialogue held in February, Human Rights Watch called for EU attention to the plight of the Montagnards, describing them as subject to "constant surveillance and other forms of intimidation, public criticism, arbitrary arrest, and mistreatment in security force custody."

"In detention, the authorities question them about their religious and political activities and any efforts to flee Vietnam," HRW said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Comments (4)


All ethnic minorities in Vietnam have been persecuted and oppressed, yet they don't get the same attention as Tibetans or Uyghurs. The Chams, Khmers, Montagnard, and other ethnic minorities deserved support of the West whom the ethnic minorities helped during the Vietnam war. 16 years in jail for demanding land rights. That is insane.

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Mar 09, 2020 09:57 AM


Dear Radio Free Asia,
Don't classify us as Vietnamese ethnic minority Montagnard. We are the owner of the land. Communist Vietnam came to our land they are must be a minority, not us.

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Mar 09, 2020 09:57 AM

Anonymous Reader

Does anybody doubt that killing more than half a million Dega people during and after the Vietnam War and until present times (Dega’s population over one million before 1975) is genocide? According to the UN convention killing this half million Dega person is (a) killing members of the group of Dega people. This (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to the Dega people when we were being arrested, tortured, imprison because we demand to return our ancestral lands, our rights of self-determination and to teach our children as we want them to be in our language, (c) deliberately inflicting condition of life by taking all our lands and settling Vietnamese ethnic in every place Dega people living calculated to bring about our physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent birth within Dega people by not allowing Dega woman to have more two children and turn Dega woman as thing to buy and sell and out bread, (e) forcibly transferring Dega ‘s children to the Vietnamese group by imposing policy of assimilation and not teaching them in their mother tongue.

Mar 06, 2020 08:11 PM

Anonymous Reader

Right at this moment, the whole world is greatly concerned with COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus. This deadly virus can be affected by every single human on this planet if the quarantine efforts do not take place. However, the Dega people in the Central Highlands in Vietnam have been exposing to a similarly deadly virus that is a virus of genocide. This virus has insidiously affected every single Dega person since the Vietnam War until the present time and cause them to lose lands, linguistic death, identity and cultural extinguished…Only Dega people continue affected by this kind of virus, for the reason this virus is leaking from the genocidal policies of the communist Vietnam .regime.

Mar 06, 2020 08:08 PM





More Listening Options

View Full Site