100 accused terrorists linked to U.S.-based group go on trial in Vietnam
Defendants accused of religiously-motivated terror attacks are flanked by police at the opening of their trial in Dak Lak Province in Vietnam's Central Highlands, Jan. 16, 2024. | Photo by VNA

HANOI—The trial of 100 people accused of terrorism and related charges goes underway on Jan. 16 in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province, in the Central Highlands. The accused are alleged to be connected to a number of violent attacks by religious terrorists last year that left nine people dead and wounded two others.

The organization they are reportedly linked to is known as the “Support Group for Montagnards” (MSGI), based in the United States. It has a history of promoting a religious extremist ideology calling for the establishment of the “Degar State,” a religious, messianic monarchy, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

In support of this goal, on June 11, 2023, the group attacked local government offices in the province. Y Mut Mlo, the alleged ringleader of the Montagnard group, is still on the run.

While Vietnam and the U.S. have maintained friendly relations for the past two decades, and even upgraded their diplomatic ties to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” the United States remains a hotbed for anti-communist groups that target Vietnam, Cuba, and other socialist and left-led states.

According to reports, the June terror attack was funded and approved by U.S.-based figures seeking to incite religious and ethnic conflict in the region. This is a familiar strategy of the U.S. and its imperialist allies. From the Balkans to the Middle East to Southeast Asia, U.S. covert actions and political activities have repeatedly attempted to incite ethnic violence to weaken and destabilize the left-led governments.

The U.S. has also welcomed violent, reactionary diaspora groups into its borders and given them protection and places to operate. Many anti-communist Cuban organizations with a history of committing acts of violence against the Cuban people have been welcomed by the U.S. government and, in many instances, supported by it as well.

Despite being one of the world’s biggest state sponsors of terrorism, the U.S.—apparently without any sense of irony—deploys the designation of “state sponsor of terrorism” to enforce its political will on the world. Countries like Cuba and Iran are placed under inhumane and illegal economic sanctions that target the average citizens of these countries.

The U.S. even tried to justify its illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by drawing links between those countries and terror organizations, a claim which was totally fabricated in the case of Iraq.

It is also important to note that the U.S. accuses the Vietnamese government of not respecting religious freedom when it moves to protect its citizens from religious extremists like MSGI. The Vietnamese constitution and other laws recognize religious freedom as rights guaranteed to all. However, just like any other country, Vietnam says it has the right to protect its citizens from religious extremism and violence.

The trial in Dak Lak is an important moment. It exposes the continuing connection between the U.S. government and terror groups and publicly broadcasts an example of how imperialist powers try to incite ethnic and religious conflict to further their own goals and destabilize countries that don’t follow the neoliberal path.

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Amiad Horowitz
Amiad Horowitz

Amiad Horowitz studied at the Academy of Journalism and Communications at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics with a specific focus on Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. His articles have appeared in National Herald India, People's World, TRANSCEND Media Service, The Hitavada (India), Northlines, and The Arabian Post.