State-linked thugs wearing national flags attacked a group of Vietnamese Catholics digging a ditch on land claimed both by their church and by local authorities on Sunday, beating parishioners in full view of police who refused to intervene, sources said.
The Dec. 17 attack in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province followed an early morning attempt by church members to dig a ditch on farmland subject to floods, Ke Gai parish priest Nguyen Duc Nhan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“At around 6:20 a.m., people began going to their field to make a ditch,” Nhan told RFA. “But the authorities then brought a crowd to the field because they thought that church members were building something.”
“Men wearing red flags over their shirts then arrived and began beating our parishioners in front of the police and the authorities,” Nhan said, naming Hung Tan commune chairman Nguyen Van Thu and commune police chief Luc as being present at the scene.
“They were directly involved in the attack, and ordered the Red Flags group to beat the women [of the parish]. One of our parishioners was then knocked unconscious on the road,” he said.
The confrontation ended at about 5:00 p.m., Nhan said, adding that he later called Nghe An provincial vice president Le Xuan Dai to request that disciplinary action be taken against Thu and Luc for their role in the attack.
Nhan’s parishioners had not begun to build on the disputed land, he said.
“They just wanted to dig a ditch to prevent water from overflowing into their field.”
“I told the authorities that the parishioners and I will talk to the bishop of our diocese about how to establish our parish. Once he agrees, we will work directly with the local government on the paperwork needed for us to proceed.”
“Only then will we begin construction,” he said.
Government-supporting “Red Flags” groups now 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, 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.