Viet Nam News
NGHỆ AN — Authorities in Nghệ An Province on Wednesday blamed members of the Song Ngọc parish for instigating a clash with the police on Tuesday..
The incident happened as parish members were marching towards Kỳ Anh Town in Hà Tĩnh Province.
Officials said parish priest Nguyễn Đình Thục of Quỳnh Lưu District’s Quỳnh Ngọc Commune wrote a letter on February 10 calling on other priests and members of the Christian community in neighbouring Hiệp Thông parish to pray for his parish, saying Christians in Song Ngọc were going to file a lawsuit against Hưng Nghiệp Formosa Co Ltd at the Kỳ Anh Town People’s Court in Hà Tĩnh Province on Tuesday.
An affiliate of the Taiwanese Formosa group, Hưng Nghiệp Formosa discharged toxic waste into the sea last summer, killing thousands of tonnes of fish along the coast of the four central provinces of Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên-Huế.
On Tuesday morning, around 500 members of the community assembled at Song Ngọc Church and began marching to the court in Hà Tĩnh. Traffic police in Nghệ An’s Diễn Hồng Commune said they set up a specific lane on the road for the crowd so as to prevent traffic jams, but the crowd broke the lane. Police officials then asked the crowd to wait on a vacant plot nearby so that Nghệ An leaders could talk to Thục and his followers.
However, officials said, Thục stopped his seven-seat van in the middle of National Highway 1A and refused to open the doors, forcing them to use a crane to lift the van off the road as it was disrupting traffic.
The priest said he was hurt by the police and retaliated by making phone calls and calling more members of the Christian community to come to the spot. Soon, clashes broke out between his followers and the police.
By 4pm, senior leaders from Nghệ An, including provincial Party Secretary Nguyễn Đắc Vinh, provincial Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee, Lê Xuân Đại and Nghệ An police chief Nguyễn Hữu Cầu – arrived at the scene along with other priests to persuade people to stop fighting and calm down.
Many protestors, however, threw bricks and stones at the police, injuring 16 officers, including Cầu, and damaged three cars. The police have detained 21 people in connection with the attack, officials said. — VNS