Tofu peddlers in Vietnam say they were assaulted in police raid

Officers seized goods from a temporary wet market in An Giang and attacked a couple who had started filming.
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Tofu peddlers in Vietnam say they were assaulted in police raid The bridge over the canal in Vinh Chau commune, An Giang province, Vietnam, Nov. 10 2021.

A married couple trying to sell tofu said they were assaulted by police Wednesday when they began filming a raid of a temporary wet market in the southern Vietnamese province of An Giang.

According to Nguyen Hoang Nam and his wife Lam Thi Nguyen Trinh, residents of My Phu hamlet, which is part of Vinh Chau commune, the incident began when they initially attempted to cross a bridge to reach the commune’s large marketplace on the other side of a canal.

Authorities had shut down the bridge as part of a lockdown imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Local sellers set up a smaller, temporary market on their side of the bridge in response.

The couple said they interpreted a recent announcement that Vietnam would lower restrictions as an invitation to cross back over the bridge to the larger marketplace. But they were blocked once again from crossing.

“Before the government said that anyone who was fully vaccinated would be allowed to cross the bridge. But after we got our two shots, they asked for us to submit a travel permit,” Nguyen Hoang Nam, a resident of An Giang, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“This morning I told them that the prime minister issued Directive 128, which lifts movement restrictions as the country transitions to a strategy of living together with the pandemic. It’s supposed to facilitate trade. So, I asked them why they are putting up the checkpoint to block movement again.”

Nam said that when the police still would not allow him to cross the bridge, he and others returned to the site of the temporary market and set up shop there only to be confronted by the officers once again, he said.

“They snatched our stuff like robbers. This is suppression, not an act for the people,” Nam said.

“If they really think for the people, they should have let us do business and only block the affected areas. This is a deliberate crack-down to push people into economic exhaustion,” he said.

Vietnam was relatively successful in containing the pandemic in 2020 and the first few months of 2021, but it has been struggling with a fourth wave that began in April. As confirmed cases climb, authorities have instituted and extended temporary lockdowns in the provinces and cities.

Nam and Trinh had been running a small tofu stand at the temporary market over the past few days. When the police came to shut down the market, officers asked the couple to move.

Trinh told RFA that her husband began filming while they argued with the police about their right to cross the bridge.

“They got out of their police car to ask him to stop filming. My husband responded that he had the right to film and asked on what grounds they forbid him to do so. Then they came closer and snatched my husband’s phone,” she said.

“I saw it all when I was frying tofu. I got angry and I stood up and grabbed the collar of the guy who snatched my husband’s phone and demanded he return it. I told them they had no right to take it because my husband hadn’t done anything wrong,” Trinh said.

After that, another officer jumped onto Nam and held him by his neck, pushing his head to the ground and crushing his body against the pavement, she said.

Trinh said she also was pushed down when she tried to get Nam’s phone back. She said she suffered a scratch to the knee.

Trinh’s knees were scratched after struggling with authorities to get back her husband’s phone. Credit: Tieng Dan Television

Nam said that the police let him go after he banged his head on the ground and the police became aware that a crowd of townspeople were witnessing the confrontation.

RFA attempted to contact the Vinh Chau Commune People's Committee to verify the incident, but repeated calls went unanswered.

To date, 94 percent of the province’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 30 percent are fully vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, Vietnam has confirmed 984,805 cases of the coronavirus, with more than 15,000 appearing in An Giang province.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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