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Cảnh sát Việt Nam bắt giữ hàng chục người biểu tình tại công trường xây dựng — Đài Á Châu Tự Do

Hundreds of police officers broke up a construction site protest in northern Vietnam Tuesday by beating several demonstrators with batons and arresting about a dozen of them, the protesters told Radio Free Asia.

The US$30 million 15-hectare (37-acre) Long Son Container Port Project would build a 250-meter (820-foot) dock to be operational by 2025 in the Hai Ha commune in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, home to nearly 3,000 households, about 400 of which rely on fishing to make a living.

Tuesday’s arrests came after several consecutive days of protests of the project, with residents taking to the streets and occupying the beach to stop Long Son from working. The residents say they want satisfactory compensation and resettlement plans.

Videos of the protest taken by residents show that the police were equipped with batons and shields. At least one man sustained a head injury, and his clothes were stained with blood.

“At around 4 a.m., hundreds of police officers were sent to the scene and they pushed us away from the beach,” a Hai Ha resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told RFA Vietnamese. “When we did not leave, they used batons to hit us. Many got injuries on their heads and limbs. They also arrested many people and took them away.”

More than 10 people were beaten to the point that they sustained minor injuries, another resident, who was also present at the scene, told RFA on condition of anonymity.

“Also, 16 people were arrested and taken to the Nghi Son Town Police Station,” the second resident said. “We were about to go there to demand the release of our people but were blocked by the police right at the edge of our village.”

Since the protest was broken up, leveling work has been started, the second resident said. “We have lost in the struggle to protect our livelihoods.”

Suppressing images

A third resident said that authorities had jammed mobile phone signals to prevent residents from spreading the images and videos of the suppression. The police also prohibited residents from filming the incident, this person said.

To verify the information provided by residents, RFA contacted the Nghi Son Town police and the Thanh Hoa provincial police. However, staff who answered the phone declined to respond to questions and requested that RFA go to their headquarters with the necessary letters of introduction to be provided with information.

A report of the incident in the provincial government’s mouthpiece, the Thanh Hoa online newspaper, said that the provincial police and the authorities of Nghi Son town and Hai Ha commune had jointly “implemented a plan to ensure the construction of Dock No. 3 of the Long Son Container Port so that the construction contractor can carry out the project on schedule.”

The report also said that because “a number of Hai Ha residents continued obstructing the construction,” responsible forces had to “temporarily put some people in custody to investigate, verify and handle the case in accordance with the law.”

The report did not specify how many residents had been arrested and put into custody, nor did it mention any injuries caused by the police crackdown.

Week-long protests

The protests started on the morning of Oct. 23, when around 300 residents from Hai Ha commune took to the streets to oppose the construction project, which, according to them, will adversely affect their livelihood and living environment.

On the afternoon of the same day, Nghi Son Town Police issued a decision to launch a criminal case against those who had obstructed traffic, causing serious traffic congestion for about one kilometer (0.6 miles).

Despite the announcement many residents continued to gather at the Hai Ha commune beach to prevent construction work, although the police had summoned some people and forced them to pledge in writing not to gather at the construction site.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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