Seven Arrested in Vietnam for Plotting to Incite Unrest

Vietnam has arrested seven ethnic minority people in the past week for attempts to organize unrest in the restive Central Highlands, state-run media said Thursday.

"They planned a demonstration on Christmas night and would have then instigated people in 49 villages to come to Pleiku to slander the authorities about repressing religion," said the Defense Ministry-run Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) daily, referring to the capital of Vietnam’s Gia Lai province.

According to Reuters, the newspaper reported that “bad elements” threw stones and used a knife to oppose a police patrol. It also claimed that they cut the telephone line of a People’s Committee office in a district.

However, sources say the arrest of the seven men in the highland province of Gia Lai is the latest in a recent series by state-controlled media, which claimed authorities in the Central Highlands had detected plots to incite unrest and had made arrests to ensure a peaceful Christmas.

Since 1997, a directive on administrative probation has given national and local security officials broad powers to detain and monitor citizens and control where they live and work for up to 2 years if they are believed to be threatening "national security." In their implementation of administrative probation, some local authorities held persons under conditions resembling house arrest. The authorities use administrative probation as a means of controlling persons whom they believe hold independent and potentially subversive opinions.

When asked about the recent reports of disorder, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung told Reuters the situation in the Central Highlands coffee belt, including in Gia Lai and Daklak provinces, was normal.

Last month, however, sources reported that the government of Vietnam detained four Mennonite Christians in Gia Lai province, threatening to beat them while interrogating them during their detention.