Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Last year, Vietnam’s economy grew by 6 per cent. In 1987, the Vietnamese government opened the door to development of a market economy, albeit influenced by socialism.
Vietnamese provinces have focused on industrial development, exports, manufacturing, trade, investment, and services. The authorities have been busy planning bridges, roads and manufacturing zones.
Many economists noted that “every sector, every province, every government agency has focused only on economic development. The authorities have not paid attention to education and environmental protection.” Overall, Vietnam’s red capitalists have focused on short-term interests.
The country’s farmland is shrinking and, along with rivers and waters, it is becoming increasingly polluted. Under Vietnamese law, the land is “owned by the people,” which actually means the government. The authorities can take advantage of the situation to protect the interests of certain groups, people or “big red capitalists”.
As a result of real estate speculation and factory construction in the past 20 years, farmland has been lost, a problem that grows day by day. Worse still, it is the government that usually enforces the expropriation policy. Although the state is prepared to pay farmers, the amount is usually far below market value.
The authorities have also used their power to seize the land owned by religious communities, forcing them to abandon many places of worship.
As a result of government land legislation, millions of people have been impoverished. Hundreds of thousands of people who have demanded the return of their property have not been compensated.
Expropriations are causing great social instability with people losing confidence in government. Many of the officials who issue permits are corrupt, colluding with real estate investors. Buildings, roads, industrial zones, and plants are built for their benefit, or in the interests of their groups.
Out of self-interest, they are willing to destroy the environment where people live. That is why farmers, fishermen in the central provinces, and patriotic intellectuals have become victims of these “red capitalist barbarians”.
The Vietnamese authorities tend to turn a deaf year to popular protests, rejecting their demands with harsh repression. In Vũng Áng, Hà Tĩnh province, Communist authorities are doing everything possible to crack down on those who fight for justice and demand reparations from Formosa Plastics, which is responsible for Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.
The Church supports disaster victims and is engaged in various actions on their behalf. On 5 June, priests from the parishes of Nhân Hòa district visited Fr Anton Đặng Hữu Nam, vicar of Phú Yên (Hà Tĩnh province), and Fr JB. Nguyễn Đình Thục, Song Ngọc Vicar (Nghệ An), both from the Vinh diocese.
Since 6 April 2016, Fr Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục have stood by and led people in protests and legal actions against the Taiwan-based company and the government for the slowness and iniquity in the distribution of compensation.
What is more, the plant that released the toxic sewage has reopened, and hundreds of thousands of people in the central provinces are still unemployed. Many families live in extreme poverty. Children cannot go to school.
More than 200 km of coastline are still polluted. Tourism, business and fishing are not yet back to normal. Yet, provincial authorities in Nghệ and Hà Tĩnh accuse the two priests of stirring residents against the Vietnamese government.
Recently, Quỳnh Lưu district authorities have intensified their activities to isolate Fr Nam and Fr. Thục, threatening parishioners in Phú Yên and Song Ngọc.
On 30 May, police in Quỳnh Lưu used hooligans to surround the Văn Thái church and attack Catholic homes with stones and bricks. They destroyed some workshops and damaged sacred images and statues. The thugs even threatened to kill Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục.
During their visit, which follows that of Archbishop Giuse Ngô Quang Kiệt on 22 May, the clergymen from Nhân Hòa condemned these acts of intimidation. “The authorities have violated sacred places and the right to freedom of religion and faith. In particular, we protest against the defamatory campaign launched in the media against the two priests, persecuting those who dare defend truth and justice.”
The priests and parishioners in Thuận Nghĩa districts (Vinh diocese) joined the protests and issued a statement sent to the People’s Committee of Nghệ An Province, the Police Department and the People’s Committee of Quỳnh Lưu District.
In it, they complain about all of the acts of violence against local Catholics, calling on the authorities to: stop threatening the spirituality and property of Song Ngọc parishioners, stop the activities that divide the Song Ngọc parish community from the nation, launch a thorough investigation to identify and try those who attacked the faithful, and, finally, call on Nghê provincial authorities to tell the government to pay adequate compensation for the victims of the Formosa disaster.