Thousands of Hmong stage rare Vietnam protest

Fri May 6, 2011 6:20am GMT

By John Ruwitch

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam has deployed troops to contain a rare protest by ethnic Hmong Christians, some of whom were calling for an independent kingdom, diplomatic and other sources said on Friday, and the government indicated the unrest was still going on.

The demonstration by as many as 7,000 people in the far-flung mountains of Dien Bien Province, near the northwestern border with Laos and China, began several days ago, but details were scant from the hard-to-access region.

Several officials in the area were contacted by telephone but declined to comment.

A Catholic priest based close to the region, citing followers in the area, said troops had been deployed and the protesters had detained at least one government official sent to negotiate.

Demonstrations on this scale are rare in Vietnam, where the ruling Communist Party brooks no opposition.

Dien Bien is one of Vietnam's poorest provinces and people who have travelled there say road, water and power infrastructure in rural areas is rudimentary.

Vietnam has 54 recognised ethnic groups including numerous minorities in its northern and central mountains, some of whom opposed the central government in the years after the end of French colonial rule.

Hmong are hill people, originally form southern China, some of whom have migrated to mountainous parts of Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.   Continued...

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