Over 50 persons in Vietnam’s Central Highlands have been detained for last week’s fatal attacks on two commune offices in central Dak Lak province. Four police officers, two commune officials, and three civilians were killed in the early morning attack in Cu Kuin district on June 11.
“Young people who harbored delusions and extremist attitudes and had been incited and abetted by the ringleaders via the internet,” a Ministry of Public Security spokesman told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Friday.
The Montagnards, or Dega, were attacked in their homeland. According to the government, 40 individuals attacked the individuals’ Committee buildings and police offices in Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur communes south of Buon Ma Thuot before daybreak.
Last week, Public Security Ministry spokeswoman To An Xo said the assailants were “ordered to kill officers and local police on sight, taking their assets and weapons” and used petrol bombs and grenades.
While police searched for the perpetrators in Dak Lak, security officers intimidated the locals. The provincial government also asked the public to trust them. It advised against “reactionary” leaders.
The catastrophe will increase Vietnamese government supervision, ensuring future attacks.
In his essential Vietnam Weekly newsletter, Michael Tatarski called the Dak Lak attack the “most high-profile eruption of violence since the sensitive Dong Tam incident on the outskirts of Hanoi in January 2020.” That was a land dispute between Dong Tam, a northern Vietnamese town, and Viettel Group, a military-run communications corporation. Three police policemen died in the conflict.
The motives of the Dak Lak assailants are unknown, although Montagnards and the central state have clashed over land disputes, economic issues, and crackdowns on unregistered evangelical churches in the Central Highlands.
In 2018, Human Rights Watch documented “ongoing government religious and political persecution” of Montagnards, including “intimidation, arbitrary arrests, and mistreatment in custody.” Montagnard Christians are fleeing to Cambodia and Thailand.
Against a tumultuous history. Montagnard tribes fought for the southern Republic of Vietnam during the Indochina Wars and later waged an armed insurgency against the state until the early 1990s. Since then, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has treated indigenous Central Highlanders with distrust and interpreted ethnic and political grievances as separatist and treason.
Vietnamese official media has portrayed the assailants as regular criminals without a political motive. To An Xo, Public Security Ministry spokeswoman, called the attacks “organized, violent, bold, barbaric, and inhumane.”
Even if the attacks were not political, official persecution and land and resource conflicts undoubtedly caused them. An unidentified Central Highlands indigenous culture expert told RFA that the assailants “might have come to a dead end” and attacked out of desperation.