Asia

Vietnam jails Hmong men for plot after 'messiah' rally

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A court in Vietnam has jailed four members of the Hmong ethnic minority after finding them guilty of plotting to overthrow the government.

One man was sentenced to seven years. Three others received three years each.

The trial follows an outbreak of violence last year when police broke up a gathering of thousands of Hmong on a remote hilltop in the north-west.

The Hmong said they were expecting the arrival of a "messiah". The authorities called it a separatist uprising.

The one-day trial was held in a court in the north-western province of Lai Chau.

The judge described Trang A Cho, 27, who was given seven years, as the ringleader.

He was accused of "propaganda against the state" and seeking to establish a "Hmong Kingdom" to "replace the State of Vietnam", a report in the Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan said.

It is not clear how the men pleaded.

Reports say eight other men have already been jailed for "disturbing security" during the mysterious religious gathering, which took place in Dien Bien province.

Thousands of Hmong attended the gathering in May 2011. Dozens of arrests were reported and hundreds of Hmong were said to have gone into hiding afterwards.

The Hmong communities in Vietnam's mountainous north-west are among the poorest people in the country. Correspondents say they have a relationship of mutual mistrust with the government.

Many of the Hmong fought on the side of the United States during the Vietnam War, and they feel they are discriminated against because of their past.

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