Parents of Catholic children barred from school in Vietnam after their families refused to pay what they called exorbitant fees were attacked outside school gates by government-linked thugs this month when they sought a meeting with school administrators, sources in the country said.
The Feb. 23 assault by the Red Flags group in the Dien Doai commune of Nghe An province’s Dien Chau district left several hurt when they were “suddenly and violently” attacked, several of the children’s parents told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“Commune authorities called their private security force to the school, and they brought sticks with them,” one parent, named Chu Trong Son, told RFA.
"I told them that I had only come to ask about the children being kicked out, but all of a sudden they began beating me really hard, hitting me on my head. Even today there are bruises on my head and all over my body,” he said.
Also speaking to RFA, one of the students banned from school said his teacher had once asked him in class if he wasn’t ashamed not to pay school fees while his classmates had to pay.
“I wasn’t kicked out that day, but my friends were,” he said. “After that, my parents went to the school and were beaten."
Attacks on Catholics
Dang Van Minh, head priest of the local parish to which the children and their parents belong, said that the commune security force that attacked the parents has recently appeared more frequently in public.
“They are often referred to as the Red Flags group because when they are working they always wear a red shirt with a gold star on it, like the flag of the Hanoi government,” he said, adding that he has tried in the past to resolve the school-fee problem between the parents and the school, but has always been ignored.
“I will now raise this issue with higher authorities, because while it can’t be handled by the local government, I am sure that authorities at a higher level will want to deal with this issue in a more fair and transparent way,” he said.
Government-supporting Red Flags groups frequently mobilize to attack Catholic priests and parishioners in Vietnam in what social media users and rights groups describe as state-sponsored abuse in the one-party communist state.
In October 2017, two priests from Vinh diocese in central Vietnam were surrounded and threatened by a mob of 300 people waving red flags, while in May, hundreds of thugs in Nghe An attacked a group of Catholic parishioners, including women and children, sending dozens to the hospital, sources said in earlier reports.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.