The Vietnamese state security forces stormed the camp on 4 and 5 May 2011. It triggered chaos among the thousands of ethnic Hmong Christians who had gathered in Huoi Khon, a village in the Muong Nhè district in northwest Vietnam, to claim religious freedom. Xeng, a farmer, recalls running around aimlessly, while elder Ka’s fever rose and pastor Youa comforted friends who, en masse, came to his hut to repent of their “ignorance” for thinking they could defeat the Vietnamese authorities.

Due to its proximity to Laos, and the harsh repression faced by the Hmong Christians who had moved to the area, Muong Nhè district had already been a sensitive area before the Huoi Khon event took place. But it’s been closed to journalists, diplomats, aid organisations, and tourists since 2011.

Flooded with police checkpoints and plainclothes agents, entry is only allowed if an official permit is issued by the Hanoi City Police or the provincial police in Dien Bien Phu. The arrangements need to be made through a travel company. But sources who work closely with the authorities in Dien Bien province say that requests for access to the area are often automatically denied.

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Josep Prat

Josep Prat is a catalan freelance journalist, covering issues from South and Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in La Vanguardia, South China Morning Post and The Diplomat. You can reach him on Twitter (www.twitter.com/jprat)

Duachaka Her

Duachaka Her is a Hmong-American cartoonist and illustrator. She creates comics, illustrates picture books, and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Duachaka resides in central Wisconsin and enjoys reading and watching movies in her spare time. Her work can be found at www.duachakaher.com or through her Twitter and Instagram @duachakaher.