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Official Vietnamese 'thugs' beat activists

Priest among Formosa steel plant protesters set upon in recent days

Official Vietnamese 'thugs' beat activists

A boy looks at a dead fish on a beach in Quang Trach district in the central Vietnamese coastal province of Quang Binh in this April 20, 2016 file photo. Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa has been blamed for mass fish deaths after leaking toxic waste from a steel mill. (Photo by AFP)

February 17, 2017

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Vietnamese authorities appear to be systematically cracking down on activists, as environmentalists and others have been attacked by security forces and thugs associated with local police over the past few days.

The attacks do not seem to be linked to any one group as they have targeted environmentalists and religious activists, Radio Free Asia's Vietnamese Service reported.

On Feb. 14, police reportedly arrested and beat several demonstrators as about 500 people were marching to protest Hanoi's handling of the Formosa steel plant toxic waste spill that poisoned much of the central coast last year.

The protest march leader, Catholic priest Nguyen Dinh Thuc, said police and security forces beat him, but that he was rescued by protesters who wanted to deliver a petition to Ky Anh district authorities demanding adequate compensation for the losses caused by the spill.

"Catholic marchers came to me when they saw that I was beaten," he said.

His beating was not the only one over the past week, as environmental activist Nguyen Thi Thai Lai was beaten by four thugs outside a restaurant in Nha Trang City on Feb. 12.

"I'm still hurt," she said. "They beat my face. They kicked me. I'm still in pain."

She said she was forcibly taken to the police station where she was interrogated about her protests against China and the Formosa steel plant.

Vietnam's one-party communist state closely controls and monitors the Catholic community, the second largest religious group in the country after the Buddhists. Vietnamese Catholics have also been at the forefront of the Formosa protests.

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