While South Vietnam wages its war against its northern neighbours, a minority group living in the central, mountains region of South Vietnam is, allegedly, waging its own, but losing battle against the Saigon Government.
While South Vietnam wages its war against its northern neighbours, a minority group living in the central, mountains region of South Vietnam is, allegedly, waging its own, but losing battle against the Saigon Government. They are called the Montagnards.
The Montagnards went to Vietnam centuries ago. They took with them their own languages, laws and identity. The French left them to go their own way, to roam the hills and hunt and farm.
Later, however, the Vietnamese took power. They described the hill people as savages. The centre of the Montagnards was for years the Phu Bon Province. But 20 years ago, when the Vietnamese moved in, life in the large village capital changed. The mountains people, it is said, lost most of their shops and businesses to the more astute Vietnamese.
Today the majority of mountain people are labourers. The alleged injustice which the Montagnards claim to have suffered is being put right, according to one member of the Saigon Government, himself a Montagnard.
One way in which a "fairer deal" is being given to the mountain people is through a new law which would give them the title to the land on which they live. The law says that after a survey, the Montagnards will be given a certificate making the land their own. The remaining land will be turned over to the Government. But, according to observers, the law is not working. The Government, it is claimed is getting more land; the Montagnards, less.
There are also claims that the Government is depriving the Montagnards of a voice in their own affairs. In a recent election a highly educated Montagnard was voted into office. But soon after his election he was dismissed. The reason the Government gave was that he was unqualified.
Other ways in which the Montagnards are allegedly exploited are apparently evident throughout their region. A well was dug by a Vietnamese contractor. The villagers did not want it. The well was nevertheless dug. The only water it yields is from rainfall -- otherwise it is dry. Observers say similar projects are common.
There are 750,000 Montagnards in South Vietnam. They are said to be gentle people who do not lie because they so not know how. Recently they estimated that between 60% and 80% of the money allocated to them was being kept by the Vietnamese.