Fishermen protesting the construction of a port project benefiting a major Vietnamese cement producer clashed with police on Sunday, with one man beaten as he attempted to get medicine, witnesses told RFA's Vietnamese Service.
About 100 plainclothes policemen, along with ambulances and fire trucks blocked the only road accessing Nghi Thiet village on July 30, after as many as 700 villagers attempted to protest the construction project,the witnesses said.
The witnesses said 64-year-old Nguyen Viet Nong was beaten as he attempted to walk through the police lines to get medicine. His beating caused the eruption of a broader clash between the police and the fishermen.
‘They all stepped on me’
“At the edge of the village, I saw many policemen blocking the road,” Nong told RFA. “I told them that I needed to go out to buy some medicine because I’m sick, and then I continued walking.”
“One policeman kicked me in the chest, making me fall. Then they all stepped on me.”
Nong said that he was then forced into a police car, but the car was stopped by the crowd after it had traveled about a kilometer.
“They opened the door and let me out,” he said. “A village doctor came to check on me and told me that I was injured in my chest because of their strong kicks.”
Another fisherman at the scene told RFA, on condition of anonymity, that people from about 400 families had gathered at the demonstration site to protest the low compensation the government has offered them for disruption to fishing.
He confirmed to RFA that fishermen and police had clashed and that “some people who got bruises, are being treated in Nghi Loc district hospital.”
“The most seriously injured person is still at the Vissai cement office in Nghi Thiet village,” he said.
According to the Vissai Group website, the company began construction on the cement plant in the Nghi Thiet village port on May 19, 2016.
The project was approved by the Nghe An province people’s committee in 2015 and has a projected capacity of 4 million tons a year. It includes an international port that can accommodate ships of up to 70,000 tons.
‘They don’t listen to us’
Another fisherman told RFA that local government officials had briefed villagers on the construction of the plant in November 2015, but that villagers then rejected the government offers, citing economic and pollution concerns.
“After the second meeting, they still went ahead with the Vissai port project without our consent,” the villager told RFA. “They did not give us a reasonable compensation for the project.”
The villager, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the government offered them between 48 million Vietnamese dong (U.S. $1,920) and three million Vietnamese dong (U.S. $120) in compensation for loss of income, depending on the size of the vessel.
Building the port facility for the Vissai cement plant will displace the fishermen, and they say the compensation falls well short of what they will need to live when they cannot fish.
“It is not enough for us to live on,” the villager said. “When the money runs out what will we do next? How can they help us transfer to other jobs? Where will we live?"
He added: "They did not listen to us.”
Reported by Xuan Nguyen. Translated by Vieth Ha. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.