A young Vietnamese man caught up in violent protests last week against government plans to grant long-term land concessions to foreign investors was severely beaten by police after answering a summons to report to their office, the young man said.
Nguyen Minh Kha, 18, now faces charges for obstructing and injuring officers and “damaging state assets” during protests in Binh Thuan province on June 10 and 11, Kha told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in a recent interview.
The Binh Thuan protest—one of several that rocked major cities including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Nha Trang—saw demonstrators throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and set fire to official vehicles and buildings, with scores of protesters detained across the country.
The protests are driven by fears that the 99-year special economic zone leases Vietnam plans to offer foreign investors will be snapped up by buyers from neighboring China, with which Vietnam has had tense bilateral relations in recent years—in part due to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Summoned after the protest by police in Phan Thiet city in Binh Thuan’s Tuy Phong district, Kha said that he was put into a car and driven to a remote location, where officers cursed and beat him, demanding to know if he had been paid to take part in the disturbance.
“I was beaten till I could barely breathe,” said Kha, who admitted having thrown stones at the police.
“I tried to tell them just to give me time, and that I would tell them whatever they wanted to know, but the officer beating me told me he had come from the city police and was there ‘to work, and not to fool around’ with me.”
Released in the afternoon, Kha said, he was told he would be called in again in just a few days, and was left “with pain all over my body” and barely able to walk.
“I went to the hospital, but they said I was only bruised,” he said.
Doctors 'scared of police'
Also speaking to RFA, Kha’s grandmother Huynh Thi Cut said that the police abuse of Kha began as soon as he entered their office.
“I went with him to the police station,” she said, adding that officers asked Kha about the protest as soon as he sat down, cursing him and striking him in the stomach and head.
The policeman carrying out the beating wore a mask, she said.
“Later, we went to the hospital near our home, but the doctors there are scared of the police and did not want to report that my grandson was injured,” she said, adding, “They said they would need to hear from the police before filing a report.”
“The government is supposed to protect people. Why do they beat us?” she asked.
Police on Wednesday ordered Kha’s family to bring him in again, but he had left his family home for medical treatment in Ho Chi Minh City, his mother told RFA by phone on June 20.
“He is not well, and is coughing up blood,” his mother said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.