Anna Ksor Buonya speaks before Congress on human rights

A 2010 graduate of Elon Law, Anna Ksor Buonya testified at an April 11 Congressional hearing that examined Vietnamese government human rights violations.

Buonya spoke at the hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, as a spokesperson for the Montagnard Human Rights Organization (MHRO). Buonya is a refugee policy advocate at MHRO. She is also General Counsel and a refugee policy advocate for The Counsel of Indigenous People of Today’s Vietnam.

The Congressional hearing was held one day in advance of the 17th session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, held in Hanoi, Vietnam. Buonya’s statement at the hearing focused on religious persecution and human rights violations that confront the Montagnard indigenous people in Vietnam.

“Tens of thousands of Montagnards were recruited and trained by US Special Forces, and loyally served the United States during the Vietnam War,” Buonya told members of Congress. “During the war years, it was estimated some 100,000 Montagnards fought alongside US troops and by the end of the war in 1975, it’s estimated over 200,000 Montagnards perished in the conflict.”

Buonya, center, testifies before a hearing of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on April 11.
“Because of our aid during the Vietnam War, we were left to face the vengeance of the victorious communists,” Buonya continued. “On taking over South Vietnam, the communists imprisoned and executed the Montagnard’s political and religious leaders. The Montagnard population was subjected to forced relocations and thousands were condemned to live on some of the country’s poorest cropland. The Montagnard’s ancestral lands are also being deforested for logging and rubber plantations.”

After describing a number of recent human rights abuses in Vietnam, Buonya urged the U.S. government to negotiate and obtain the release of all Montagnard prisoners before advancing more U.S. government defense and trade treaties with Vietnam.  She also called for the Vietnamese government’s recognition of Montagnards as indigenous peoples in the context of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. In addition, Buonya urged the U.S. State Department to consider re-opening its Refugee Program within Vietnam, “acknowledging that there continues to be many claims of well-founded persecution in Vietnam.”

Anna Ksor Buonya L'10 with U.S. Representative Christopher Smith (NJ), Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
Others providing statements at the hearing included:

  • The Honorable Anh “Joseph” Cao, Former Member of Congress
  • Mr. Vo Van Ai, President, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights and Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam
  • Ms. Hui Danh, Sister of a victim of human trafficking
  • Mr. Tien Tran, Victim of religious persecution at the Con Dau Parish
  • Mr. John Sifton, Advocacy Director for Asia Human Rights Watch

The full text of statements made at this hearing, along with a complete video of the hearing is available here.