Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Article Index


Although the government officially prohibits discrimination against ethnic minorities, longstanding societal discrimination against ethnic minorities persisted. Despite the country's significant economic growth, some ethnic minority communities benefited little from improved economic conditions. In certain areas, including the Northwest and Central Highlands and portions of the Mekong Delta, ethnic minority groups made up the majority of the population.

Some members of ethnic minority groups continued to leave for Cambodia and Thailand, reportedly to seek greater economic opportunity or shortcuts to migration to other countries. The government monitored certain highland minorities closely, particularly several ethnic groups in the Central and Northwest Highlands, where it continued to be concerned that the religion they practice encouraged ethnic minority separatism.

The government imposed increased security measures in the Central and Northwest Highlands in response to concerns over possible ethnic minority separatist activity. There were reports that ethnic minority individuals who telephoned ethnic minority community members abroad were a special target of police attention. Authorities arrested and convicted several individuals connected to overseas separatist organizations and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms in 2011. During the period around sensitive occasions and holidays, an increased security presence was reported throughout the region. There were a few reports that Vietnamese police operating on both sides of the border returned members of ethnic minorities seeking to enter Cambodia and sometimes beat and detained them.

In late April and early May, 5,000 ethnic Hmong in Dien Bien Province gathered in Muong Nhe District as part of a millennium movement. Security personnel dispersed the crowd and arrested 150 individuals. According to the government, seven detainees (among them were Thao A Lao, Mu A Thang, Trang A Do, and Giang A Xi from Dien Bien Province) remained in police custody at year's end, charged with preventing government officials from performing official duties, and an investigation continued.

The government continued to address the causes of ethnic minority discontent through special programs to improve education and health facilities and expand road access and electrification of rural communities and villages. The government continued to allocate land to ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands through a special program, but there were valid complaints that implementation was uneven.

The government maintained a program to conduct classes in some local ethnic minority languages in elementary and secondary schools. The government also worked with local officials to develop local language curricula, but it appeared to implement this program more comprehensively in the Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta, and only in limited areas of the Northwest Highlands. The law provides for universal education for children regardless of religion or ethnicity, and ethnic minorities are not required to pay regular school fees. The government operated special schools for ethnic minority children,

and there were 223 boarding schools for them in the Northwest and Central Highlands and the Mekong Delta, including at middle- and high-school levels plus special admission and preparatory programs as well as scholarships and preferential admissions at the university level. There were also a few government-subsidized technical and vocational schools for ethnic minorities. Nonetheless, there were some credible cases of discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The government broadcast radio and television programs in ethnic minority languages in some areas. The government also instructed ethnic-majority

(Kinh) officials to learn the language of the locality in which they worked. Provincial governments continued initiatives designed to increase employment, reduce the income gap between ethnic minorities and ethnic Kinh, and make officials sensitive and receptive to ethnic minority culture and traditions.

Nonetheless, local security officials detained Tang Thuy, an ethnic Khmer Krom minority group member from Soc Trang Province, for two days in March for questioning about his participation in a meeting that called for the government to respect the rights of all ethnic minorities.

The government granted preferential treatment to domestic and foreign companies that invested in highland areas populated predominantly by ethnic minorities. The government also maintained infrastructure development programs that targeted poor, largely ethnic-minority areas and established agricultural extension programs for remote rural areas.

The National Assembly's Ethnic Minority Council, along with provincial Ethnic Minority Steering Committees, supported infrastructure development and addressed some issues related to poverty reduction and an increase in literacy rates during the year.

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law