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Vietnam jails five hilltribe men for rebellion
21 September 2004
Reuters News

HANOI, Sept 21 (Reuters) - A Vietnam court ordered five hilltribe men to be   jailed for up to seven years for anti-government activities, including supplying food and money to rebels hiding in the forest, and aiding illegal immigration.

The Gia Lai province People's Court on Monday handed down jail terms of between five and seven years to the five residents of Chu Se District in the Central Highlands, the Vietnam News daily reported on Tuesday.  It found the men, members of an ethnic minority group, guilty of "undermining national unity" by providing supplies to members of a now defunct armed opposition group FULRO "hiding deep in the forest", the report said without giving details.

A founding member of FULRO, Kok Ksor, who heads the Montagnard Foundation in the United States, has been accused by Hanoi of organising protests in the highlands.

The offences of the men date back to early 2003 when they made numerous phone calls to the United States to report on their activities in Vietnam "and slander Vietnam's policy toward ethnic minorities", the newspaper said.

Human rights groups accuse Hanoi of repressing the minority people by     denying their rights to religion and confiscating tribal lands. Vietnam denies the charges.

The men were detained after crossing into Cambodia between November and December 2003 where they had hoped to obtain permission to enter the United
States, the newspaper said.  After fleeing Vietnam to Cambodia following anti-government protests in 2001 and in April 2004, more than 1,000 hilltribe people were granted U.S. asylum.

The men were also linked to leaders of the dissident "Degar Protestantism" group, which like other underground churches refuses to register its activities with the government.