June 3, 2017
A Catholic priest and his parishioners continue to be harassed and intimidated by local authorities and thugs from Nghe An Province in central Vietnam.
A large mob of people prevented Father Nguyen Dinh Thuc from returning home after he conducted evening mass at Van Thai sub-parish on May 30. The mob surrounded the parish, yelled out death threats at the priest and threw stones at the church. Local authorities were called to the scene but chose not to confront the hostile people.
The mob of people also vandalised the homes of parishioners within the area, breaking religious artifacts and personal valuables the following night. Parishioners returned from mass to find their homes and possessions destroyed.
“We have been attacked over the past few days. Many local authorities approached families and parishioners. They have brought hundreds of people to vandalise homes. They threw bricks before breaking down doors and destroying property,” Father Thuc said in a plea for help.
Local authorities have been conducting drills involving the firing of weapons outside the church as a form of intimidation. On May 28, dozens of people outside the Son Hai Commune People’s committee were physically attacked while retrieving a fellow parishioner who had been detained.
Father Thuc and local parishioners have experienced ongoing harassment for months. In early May, local authorities accused Fathers Nguyen Dinh Thuc and Dang Huu Nam of “conducting propaganda against the state”. Father Thuc was also physically attacked while leading a peaceful march calling for environmental justice in February.
He has been leading affected fishermen to file lawsuits against Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Plant, the company responsible for the toxic spill in April 2016 which resulted in masses of dead fish washing up Vietnam’s central coast. Despite a $500 million compensation by Formosa, victims say the distribution of compensation has been slow and inadequate.