03/12/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an ethnic Montagnard Vietnamese Christian, Y Ngun Knul, was released from prison last week. He was imprisoned for almost 16 years for demanding land rights and religious freedom.
Y Ngun Knul was arrested and imprisoned on April 20, 2004, and issued an 18-year sentence which was later reduced. He was arrested for launching protests calling for a Protestant church that was shut down by the authorities to be reopened and for the members of his community to be allowed to live according to their traditions.
“As those rights were being taken away, people were becoming upset, and so I called on everyone to take part in the protests. As a result, I was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison,” Knul told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
He was visited by his family only four times during his time behind bars at Nam Ha and Thanh Chuong Prisons, located in distant Nghe An province. Both he and his family have suffered in the past decade. His family lost their house and land, and his poor health due to years of incarceration shadows him with uncertainty for the future.
“I have kidney failure and high blood pressure and had a gastrointestinal hemorrhage,” he told RFA. “Now I can eat only bowl of rice per day because I have stomach problems that make it hard for me to breathe.”
He added, “My foot is swelling, too, making it hard for me to move.”
On March 10, Vu Quoc Ngu from the Vietnamese human rights organization Defend the Defenders told ICC, “Y Ngun Knul is going to Saigon for [a] medical check. Protestant pastor Pham Ngoc Thach, who was a prisoner of conscience, is accompanying him to Saigon now.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “Unfortunately, Knul is just one of the many prisoners of conscience in Vietnam imprisoned for their religion, political views, or ethnicity. While we celebrate Knul’s release after many agonizing years, we know that dozens of Christians are still incarcerated and should be released unconditionally by the Vietnamese authorities.”