Ky Anh, 4 thousand Catholics beaten by police for protesting against environmental disaster
The protesters were calling for justice after Formosa Plastic Group pollution leaves hundreds of fishing families hungry. The protest was headed for municipal offices but was blocked by police barricades. Several people were injured by truncheon blows.
Hanoi - About 4 thousand Catholics from Ky Anh town, in the center of the country, were blocked and beaten by police while protesting against government inaction in response to fish deaths that are bringing fisher families in the province to their knees.
Since April 70 tons of fish have died because of pollution caused by the Formosa Plastic Group, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped their waste into the sea. In four months, the authorities have not yet compensated the damaged workers nor helped families in need.
Phuong, one of the protesters, said: "On August 15 we decided to march to the offices of the town but the police had blocked all access to the highway." About 200 officers were mobilized to build barricades and stop the people's march: "Some protesters tried to climb the barricades - she continues - but they were repelled. Police used batons to beat people, and a woman was injured".
Eventually the demonstrators managed to reach the offices of the People's Commission, "but they were closed, so we all had to go home".
Nguyen Thanh Lang, director of Quy Hoa parish, says that "an elderly person has a broken arm as a result of police violence. Others are hospitalized". An Ky Anh official has denied that police beat protesters, claiming that people were injured because of the crowd that had gathered.
Most of the inhabitants of the central provinces of Vietnam lived from fishing and salt production, but the ecological disaster has deprived them of all income sources. For months, the Church and civil society have been criticizing the Hanoi government, guilty of delaying the investigation, failing to protect citizens health and of having violently repressed peaceful protests. A visit made by Caritas in the most affected areas revealed the serious situation of the fishermen's families, who are now reliant on charity for survival.
Four months after the disaster, says Phuong, "we have received only 15 pounds of rice per month per person, and the quality is so low that we can not eat it. We have not heard a single word of support or encouragement from the authorities".