- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

Three retired Green Beret members of Save The Montagnard People Inc. (STMP) crossed the border into Cambodia again in March 2005 in a rescue mission for Montagnard allies who fought beside them in the Vietnam War. This time their mission was one of diplomacy and providing important documents to speed the immigration process for those lingering in U.N. refugee camps in Phnom Penh.

George Clark, retired Special Forces veteran and President of STMP, says: “We told the Cambodian officials we weren’t there to cause a national scandal or to try and embarrass them with the media. We were bringing necessary documentation in the form of family papers, birth certificates, etc., to speed up the process of immigration to the U.S.”

Their main effort was in Camp 3, whose Montagnard refugees wanted to come to America. Nineteen had been denied by the State Department, but the documents overturned the denial.

The Montagnards in Camp 1 were fed false information they would be welcomed back to Vietnam by the communist government. They had also been propagandized that the U.S. wouldn’t help them if they chose to come to America.

Sam Todero, a rescue mission member says, “George gave a very impassioned speech in Camp 1 convincing 120 of them to change their minds. But 180 of them chose to return to Vietnam.”

What those in Camp 1 don’t realize is that a return to Vietnam is a return to the gulag, where they may disappear. The Central Highlands are off-limits today to all outside visitors and human rights organizations. Even the U.S. ambassador in Vietnam is denied permission to visit and inspect the treatment of the Montagnard people.

While the prime minister of Vietnam visits President Bush in the White House next week, the present Vietnamese government is continuing to deliberately destroy the Montagnard culture via forced sterilization, false imprisonment, religious persecution, stealing their land and placing a bounty on those who flee to Cambodia to avoid persecution.

The Montagnards (French for “people of the mountains”) have three strikes against them in Vietnam: They fought with the Americans in the Vietnam War, they have adopted Christianity and their traditional homeland has valuable natural resources. They are pressured to abandon Christianity and take “The Road to Ho” and become good communists.

To preserve the Montagnard Culture, Special Forces veterans have banded together in STMP and bought 100 acres near Asheboro, N.C., which will be Montagnard land forever. There are 6,000 Montagnards in the North Carolina area. Several thousand attended the annual picnic there over Memorial Day.

During the war, the Montagnards lost more than 85 percent of their villages and 200,000 people out of a population of 1 million. The U.S. government rewarded for loyalty with abandonment and a thinly veiled promise the United States would return to assist them.

Says George Clark: “We’re going to keep the Montagnard culture alive on this 100 acres of land. This is one promise that we are not going to break. The Montagnard flag will fly here along side the American flag.”

Representatives of the five major tribal groups — the Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, Mnong and Koho lit ceremonial candles to symbolize the uniting of the Montagnard people in America. Hand-carved totem poles flanked a ceremonial table with the pictures of two slain Montagnard representatives to the former South Vietnamese government. For thousands of years, their home was in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, and once was recognized as a semi-independent state by the French and later the South Vietnamese government.

One Montagnard said: “I work 10 years in prison camp. No rice, no medicine. We get corn to eat, food for animals.”

“If ever America owes a people, these are the ones,” says retired Maj. Brooke Lloyd, with 5th Special Forces from 1966-68. “It’s a shame the Montagnards have to leave their own country to find freedom. They are the best and the most loyal allies that America has ever had in war.”

“My Montagnard friend spent 11 years in the prison camps,” continues Maj. Lloyd. “He survived by his wife smuggling rice under the wire. We finally brought him to North Carolina, but he died of stomach cancer. The Russians experimented on those in his camp by injecting them with a blue serum. All those injected would die of stomach cancer.”

This brave Montagnard warrior’s wife was recognized during the ceremony. She returned to her ancestral homeland last year, where she was caught up in a peaceful prayer vigil over the Easter Weekend. Hundreds of her people were brutally beaten and taken to secret gulags. The BBC reported 400 were killed. Maj. Lloyd says STMP now has the names of 286 Montagnards killed in the Easter protest.

The Montagnard woman is reluctant to give her name because her grandson was killed in the civil rights protest, and the communists have placed a bounty on her son’s head.

The tragedy is that the Montagnard people, who fought bravely for their freedom and the American cause in Vietnam, suffered greatly after the war for their loyalty. Now that they have adopted Christianity, their persecution has intensified.

The prime minister of Vietnam shouldn’t get a free pass on this human-rights issue when he visits next week. America owes it to the Montagnards.

RICHARD WEBSTER

Vietnam Veteran

Major, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired)

COUNTERPARTs and STMP member


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