ICC Note: Two Catholic priests in central Vietnam were threatened by more than 300 mobs belonging to the “Red Flag” group. It is believed that the mob group is supported by the government to intimidate Catholic parishes and parishioners for their efforts of helping fishing communities win redress from the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group, responsible for a toxic spill in April 2016 at a massive steel plant located in Ha Tinh province which put millions of fishermen and other local residents out of work.
10/30/2017 Vietnam (Radio Free Asia) – Two priests from Vinh diocese in central Vietnam were surrounded and threatened on Monday by a mob of 300 people waving red flags, in what the clergymen and rights group said is part of a broad pattern of government supported abuse in the Southeast Asian country.
Dominic Pham Xuan Ke and Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Ngu were at the Diem My Commune People’s Committee office, the local government office, discussing their earlier petition for help against threats from thuggish groups when the crowd appeared, Ke said.
“We came to work with them to solve the problems but they had arranged people to come to threaten us. They said the group had gathered spontaneously, but that’s impossible,” Ke told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
It took several hours before the priests felt safe to walk from the government office to their car, he said.
“We were then about to go home but (our) parishioners told us not to go because they heard that people had prepared knives, swords and even laid electrified wire on the road. But we still decided to go, and luckily we all got home safely,” said Ke.
Vietnam’s social media users have pointed out that people calling themselves “Red Flag” groups have mobilized online and occasionally in person to attack Catholic parishes and parishioners.
The groups’ members dress in red and hold the Vietnamese Communist Party’s standard red flag with a yellow star and flags bearing the hammer and sickle.
On Facebook, the “Red Flag” groups have called priests “reactionary black crows,” among other epithets.