A resolution introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis recognizes the Montagnards of North Carolina, as well as condemning the human-rights violations suffered by their relatives in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It deserves the backing of the full Senate. The support expressed for a people who allied with the U.S. during a tragic war, the consequences of which are still felt today, is proper and noble.
The Montagnards — “mountaineers” or “mountain dwellers” in French — are indigenous Vietnamese who fought along U.S. soldiers during the war and who have continued fighting for recognition and self-determination in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
According to the resolution, “the lives of thousands of members of the United States Armed Forces were saved as a result of the heroic actions of the Montagnards, who fought loyally and bravely alongside United States Special Forces in the Vietnam War.”
Before and during the war, the Montagnards were exposed to various forms of Christianity. Many adopted the religion.
After the fall of the Republic of Vietnam in 1975, authorities “subjected them to imprisonment and various forms of discrimination and oppression,” the resolution says. Many fled; the U.S. government resettled thousands in the U.S.; but many remain in Vietnam.
About 12,000 Montagnards came to North Carolina, where they’re largely concentrated in Greensboro, Charlotte and the Triangle.
American Montagnards are often prevented from visiting family members in Vietnam. On some visits, they’ve been subjected to harsh interrogation.
Back in Vietnam, authorities refuse to allow Montagnards to acquire ID cards, household registration and birth certificates in retaliation for refusing to renounce their faith.
Such punishment makes some American claims of “religious persecution” look pale.
The resolution not only recognizes the Montagnards for their contributions to the U.S. efforts during the Vietnam War, it calls on Vietnam to end its restrictions on the Montganards and affirms their rights to freedom of religion, property, movement, ethnic identity and culture and access to an adequate standard of living.
“It’s important we honor the Montagnards who bravely fought alongside American forces in Vietnam,” Tillis said in a statement. “I am proud many Montagnards now call North Carolina home and are a part of our local communities.”
We appreciate the attention Burr and Tillis have brought to these families and allies and hope the resolution aids them, at least by assuring them that in the eyes of our government, they have a place here. They are safe.
We’ve not always been so supportive of our allies, as the situation with the Kurds in Syria unfortunately showcases at the moment. Perhaps Burr and Tillis could have a word with President Trump on their behalf.
But it’s a simple principle, and one by which the world will judge us: We’ve got to stand by those who stood by us.