Y Dak Bya
“The Viet Cong lived in the jungles nearby. When the South Vietnamese troops came to our village they suspected and beat us and they killed our animals. They treat us badly. After they moved away the Viet Cong communists come to our village and they say we are in contact with government troops. How can we live like that? The two sides oppressed us. It made us angry.
The Americans helped the Montagnards defend our villages. After 1966 when the big fighting began in Vietnam all of the Montagnard units could not live in the countryside anymore. I joined the Army, joined the Mobile Strike Force. They trained me to be in a recon team and I was assigned as a recon team leader. They taught us how to use a compass; how to read maps; how to use rifle; how to find enemy tracks. I worked for 4 or 5 years as a weapons instructor on the Mike Force Training Command out of An Khe.
In 1975 when Saigon collapsed, I go back to Central Highlands, to my village and returned to farming. Twenty-eight years later somebody who knew what my background was in the war told the Vietnamese and they start to make trouble with me. They said I protected the Americans and that I am a member of CIA. I never work for the CIA. I’m just a farmer. They suspect that I stay in contact with the Americans because in 2000 I traveled to Saigon to contact a colleague there to promote Montagnard culture. And they suspect me and they say, ‘Ok your job is good but you still use that job to contact the Americans.’ They don’t believe me and put me in jail on August 30, 2002 for two months-tied my hands up and threw me in jail. They thought I worked for Kok Ksor, President of Montagnard Foundation in the US, but I never did.
After I got out of jail they kept an eye on me. I went back to farming. One day they held a meeting in the village and they forced all of the villagers to renounce the Christian religion. They took all our bibles and told us not to believe in God any more-just believe Ho Chi Minh. They made a little festival with rice wine and played music and declared the Montagnards don’t believe in God any more.
Two of the communists-the village chief and chief of police-grab me and force me to sit down and drink rice wine with them. I said, ‘What do you want to do with me? If you want to kill me, give me a cup of poison. I’ll take it right away.’ And I stood up and left. They were angry with me. Then two days later I fled to the jungle-I lived 17 months in the jungle. Every weekend my family bring me food and water. I hide in the bush near an abandoned farm. I lived like an animal. I had a hut and a little pan to cook my food over a fire. The government was looking for me. They made a reward of 50,000,000 dong for anyone who can find me or kill me because they said I was dangerous for the government.”