Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Vietnam has declared the conduction of a trial involving 98 individuals accused of orchestrating deadly gun attacks on local government offices in the Central Highlands last year.

The assailants, who carried out the attacks on the morning of June 11, utilized firearms and other weapons to target political headquarters and police offices in the Cu Kuin district of Dak Lak province, resulting in the tragic loss of nine lives, including four police officers, two local officials, and three civilians.

The region where the attacks occurred is home to ethnic minorities who have voiced grievances of government persecution. The prosecution contends that the motive behind the coordinated assaults was a bid to establish an independent state. The trial, which commenced on Tuesday and is anticipated to span 10 days, encompasses charges ranging from terrorism to hiding criminals and facilitating illegal immigration. Notably, punishment for terrorist offenses in Vietnam may include the death penalty, as acknowledged by Amnesty International, which has expressed concern about the frequency of executions in the country.

Six of the accused are being tried in absentia and are subject to international arrest warrants. The proceedings underscore the severity of the case, with H’Yim Kdoh, deputy chair of Dak Lak People’s Committee, characterizing it as an attempt to overthrow the state and establish a self-proclaimed Dega state. The Dega, a Christian ethnic minority residing primarily in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, have some members advocating for autonomy from the state.

Illegal firearm ownership in Vietnam adds an additional layer of complexity to the case, given that civilians are prohibited from possessing firearms, making gun violence exceptionally rare. During the investigation, the defendants reportedly confessed to the charges, asserting that they were coerced into the attack.

Authorities seized 23 guns and rifles, two grenades, 1,199 bullets, and other explosive devices in the aftermath, describing the attacks as “barbaric and inhumane.” This trial brings to the forefront the longstanding grievances of ethnic and religious minorities in Vietnam, who have consistently raised concerns about oppression within the country’s one-party political system dominated by the Communist Party.

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