Key Fact: Protestant Pastor of Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ (MECC)
Detained Since: August 18, 2016
Biography: A Dao, resident of Gia Xieng Village, Ro Koi Commune, Sa Thay District, Kontum Province, is a Protestant pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ (MECC). He took over as the lead pastor of this church after his predecessor, Pastor A Ga, fled to Thailand in 2013 (in July 2019, A Ga met with U.S. President Donald J. Trump during the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom).
A Dao has also advocated for religious freedom for his fellow church members in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and elsewhere. In August 2016, he attended the conference on Freedom of Religion in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People's Forum in East Timor. At these events, he presented the plight of MECC and asked the international community for help.
A Dao was arrested on August 18, 2016, shortly after his return to Vietnam. On April 28, 2017 was sentenced to 5 years in prison for “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally” under Article 275 of the country’s Penal Code. During interrogation, he was reportedly tortured in order to extract a confession. He denied the charge and claimed his innocence.
He continues to suffer mistreatment in detention. For example, in the morning of September 1, 2018, his wife, Ms. Nguyen Thi Tuoi visited him in Gia Trung Prison of Gia Lai Province. The guards allowed a very brief visit, much shorter than in the past. His face was bruised, with traces of blood. She learned that in August 2018 the prison guards had been using other inmates to beat him. His health was poor as a result of frequent beatings.
Pastor A Dao’s health has deteriorated as a result of the harsh treatment typically reserved for prisoners of conscience. It was reported that he was tortured in late 2019. Without viable means of livelihood, his wife had to sell their land and move in with her own relatives after sending their two school-age children to live separately with different relatives. His son is now 16 years old, while his daughter is 6 years old.
His expected release date is August 18, 2021.
USCIRF Advocate: James W. Carr