Following vicious attacks on police offices in the province of Dak Lak in Vietnam on June 11, local authorities said they will be prosecuting 84 people for pre-trial detention. While the motive for the attacks is still unclear, it is believed that elements from outside the country are involved.
On that Sunday, several people were killed and wounded when gunmen stormed two police headquarters, the Ea Tieu and Ea Ktur stations, in the Central Highlands province, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.
According to Reuters, among those killed were four policemen, two local government officials and three civilians. Three hostages were also taken by the gunmen, but two were rescued by police and one escaped on their own.
It was reported that petrol bombs and grenades were used during the assault as the gunmen were “ordered to kill officers and local police on sight, taking their assets and weapons,” Public Security Ministry spokesperson To An Xo told reporters.
Around 40 people were seen wearing camouflage vests, brandishing knives and guns as they divided their forces to attack the two stations. Special Forces Brigade No. 198’s barracks in Hoa Dong commune were infiltrated, but the efforts were for naught, the ministry said.
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The Dak Lak Provincial Police’s Investigation Agency announced that it will put 75 of the 84 suspects on trial on charges of “conducting terrorist acts against the People’s government.” Seven will be tried for “failing to denounce criminals,” while two more were charged with “hiding criminals” and “organizing and brokering for others to exit, enter, or stay in Vietnam illegally.”
The prosecution was given the green light by the province’s People’s Procuracy, to have the defendants locked up in a provincial prison before their trial.
According to the announcement, authorities have confiscated 23 guns, two grenades and 1.2 kilograms of explosives among an arsenal of other weapons and accessories. Ten flags belonging to the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (FULRO) were found as well.
FULRO was a resistance army formed in the 1950’s, fighting against the communist forces alongside the U.S. and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The army was disbanded in the 1990s, long after the communist government took over.
Following long “government surveillance, land disputes and economic hardship,” the Central Highlands have seen rising discontent amongst the population.
On June 29, the Ministry of Public Security summoned a delegation to visit the families of those who perished in the attacks, paying their respects and providing the families financial aid.
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On June 23, the Ministry of Public Security claimed that “organizations and individuals from overseas” were linked to the attacks, citing “materials and evidence” that were gathered by security forces, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
“They even sent foreign-based people to Vietnam illegally in order to stage and direct the terrorist attacks,” the ministry added.
Major General Pham Ngoc Viet, head of the ministry’s Homeland Security Department, believed that some of the attackers were members of “a U.S.-based organization” who were ordered to “enter Vietnam and stage the attacks.” He added that the attacks were “organized terrorism” from abroad — something that Vietnam itself had never experienced before.
The attacks happened in an area where around 30 indigenous tribes, known as the Montagnards, lived. These tribes have long felt “persecuted and oppressed,” but authorities have said that none of the attackers were Montagnards. Some overseas Montagnard organizations were interviewed by RFA, claiming they had nothing to do with the attacks, even condemning the violence committed.