Thugs attack Vietnamese protesting hydropower plant

Ethnic Yao locals say the dam threatens their livelihoods and want the developer to pay for their losses.
Villagers protest the construction of a hydropower plant in a hamlet of the town of Sa Pa in northern Vietnam's Lao Cai province, March 14, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Sa Pa People's Committee

Thugs with steel pipes attacked members of the Yao ethnic minority community in Vietnam’s Lao Cai province on Monday as they protested the construction of a hydropower plant they said would block the water source they rely on for salmon farming.

Residents are trying to block construction of the project because they say it has contaminated water on a nearby spring, killing their fish, and Vietnamese project developer May Ho Energy Company Ltd. has not offered inadequate compensation to cover their losses.

“The company has been carrying out the construction work without paying [enough] compensation to local residents,” a resident surnamed Lo told RFA by text message.

But when members of the Dao Do (Red Yao) community gathered to stop work on the plant in a hamlet of Sa Pa town, the company hired thugs to “suppress them,” Lo said.

“Being beaten, the residents had to resist,” he said. “Because the thugs all used steel tubes, the residents had to pick up bricks [to throw] to fight back.”

A video shot by a protester shows dozens of people in plainclothes with steel tubes approach and attack local residents who had gathered peacefully.

The incident quickly escalated and turned into a clash when the locals fought back.

Vuong Trinh Quoc, who is the chairman of the town’s People’s Committee, told state media that locals assaulted construction workers, leaving eight workers injured.

Many residents, including Lo, denied the report and said they were not the instigators. He expressed anger about the incident on social media after seeing Quoc’s statement in the media.

Another resident who gave her name as May also said that those who had assaulted locals were thugs hired to attack them.

RFA could not reach Quoc for comment, but later contacted Pham Tien Dung, vice chairman of the town’s People’s Committee, who said he was not authorized to speak with the media about the incident.

RFA could not reach the local representative of the May Ho Energy Company for comment, despite making several calls.

The private company registered in April 2017 received a project license for construction of the hydropower plant in May 2021. Building work began the following month.

The project falls under a category that allows the state to appropriate land for the purpose of national development, according to a report by state-run Vietnam News Agency.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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