Locals clash with police over road destruction

Around 10 people were arrested during clashes over the removal of an old road in Vietnam's Nghe An province.
2022.07.14
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Riot police fight with protesters trying to stop the demolitionof residential roads in Nghi Thuan commune, Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province on July 13.
Screenshot of fighting filmed by Citizen journalist

Around 10 people were arrested and others injured in clashes between locals and riot police in Vietnam's Nghi Loca district on Wednesday morning, locals told RFA.

"There were about 1,000 riot policemen, policemen in uniform and plain clothes officers," a local told RFA on condition of anonymity. "About 10 people were arrested and others injured in clashes between locals and riot police."

Locals said the Nghe An provincial government sent police to Nghi Thuan commune to stop them preventing  the destruction of the road connecting Khanh Thien hamlet to the N5 road. They say the road has been there for a long time but the government wants to destroy it in order to build an industrial park.

“The two sides were pushing each other." Nguyen Van Hien from Binh Thuan parish told RFA. "People opened the police barricades to get to the part of the road that was being demolished. Police used tear gas and the people ran away. The police arrested a few people and I don't know where they were taken."

Facebook live streams show locals removing the fence and clashing with police. One policeman was dragged away by protesters who punched and kicked him, while many of the locals were attacked and arrested. Riot police fired tear gas grenades while some locals fought back with petrol bombs.

Father Nguyen Dinh Thuc, who is from Binh Thuan but works as a pastor inf a nearby parish, said he saw a lot of policemen on his way home from morning service.

 "People said that when they heard the road was closed they went to protest and were brutally beaten by riot police, officers in uniform and civilians. The police used tear gas, smoke bombs and light weapons," he said "Then the riot police entered the village and went  into the homes of some families ...to beat people.They even went upstairs to beat people, even those in their sixties and seventies.. They beat them brutally and took away five people whose fates are unclear.”

The priest said police remained in the commune for hours after protesters dispersed and confiscated dozens of motorcycles, electric bikes and bicycles.

Some locals say although people were seriously injured no-one could leave the village to get medical help because police had blocked off the neighborhood.

industrial zone.jpeg
Map of WH Industrial Park, residential area and surrounding roads. CREDIT: Nghe An Newspaper

Creation of new industrial park

Citing information from a leader of Nghi Loc district, Wednesday's Giao Thong Online newspaper said workers from Nghe An province are completing the demolition of the old residential road running from National Highway 7C through the WHA Industrial Park to Nghi Thuan commune. It said in the process several policemen were attacked and injured by extremists.

The newspaper said police arrested a number of people for attacking officers.

On Wednesday morning RFA called Dang Thanh Tung, Chief of the Office of the People's Committee of Nghe An province, but he hung up when the reporter identified himself. 

All attempts to call the chairman of the Provincial People's Committee, Nguyen Duc Trung, Standing Vice Chairman, Le Hong Vinh, and agencies such as the People's Committee and the Nghi Loc District Police were unsuccessful.

 RFA emailed the People's Committees of Nghe An province and Nghi Loc district and some local leaders but did not receive replies.

State media say the road being destroyed in Phase 1 of the 498 hectare WHA Industrial Zone 1 project, which is being carried out by a Thai company, is around 520 meters long and 3.5 meters wide. It was approved by the prime minister in 2017.

The government says it is necessary to remove the road, which runs through the industrial park, to build new links between plots for new factories and to install drains.

At the end of 2019, WHA Industrial Zone Nghe An Joint Stock Company built a bypass to replace the residential road. It was 6.5 meters wide and made of reinforced concrete.

Locals prefer the road they have used for more than 100 years. They also suspect the government wants to destroy the road in order to get the upper hand in future negotiations if it wants to take the land where the residents of Nghi Thuan commune are living in order to expand the industrial park.

According to priest Nguyen Dinh Thuc, on May 20, Nghi Loc district held a discussion with the people of Nghi Thuan commune at the hall of the commune People's Committee to ask people's opinions on the closure of the route from N5 road to Khanh Thien hamlet.

About 20 locals opposed the road closure for a variety of reasons. Some objected because the new road belongs to a private firm. Others felt unsafe because the road is bordered by a high steel fence.

At the meeting the government confirmed it had consulted people and named some those who had signed forms to show their attendance. The named people objected saying they had not discussed the road or approved the destruction of the old road to create company land.

The government held no further consultation before sending police to enforce the old road's closure on Wednesday.

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