Thanh Hoa protestors prosecuted for disrupting public order

By Lam Le   March 9, 2016 | 11:53 pm PT
Thanh Hoa Police issued a decision on March 5 to prosecute protestors who are against a major tourism development along Sam Son beach for disrupting public safety, traffic and government operations.

The protests escalated following allegations that a woman was seriously injured in an attack by three men after she refused to sign a commitment to relocate her family boat. Police have installed a steel fence in front of the People’s Council and buses from Sam Son to Thanh Hoa city have been suspended.

For the past 10 days, hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Thanh Hoa calling on the local government to set aside 500 to 1,000m of coastline for fishing wharves. Local authorities have yet to issue a final decision on the matter.


Protestors with signs reading “Give us back the sea”. Photo by Le Hoang

At the public hearing on the issue, secretary of the provincial party committee of Thanh Hoa province Trinh Van Chien, said that authorities respect the public’s opinion and no official document requires the immediate removal of fishing wharves.

“We owe you an apology,” said Chien. However, he also noted that large gatherings and disrupting public order are against the law and “portray a bad image of Thanh Hoa's people”.

“I hope you understand that we all want Sam Son to be more spacious and beautiful,” he added.


Provincial Secretary Mr Trinh Van Chien responds to questions at the public hearing. Photo by Le Hoang

The tourism development in Sam Son, a popular beach in Central Vietnam, stretches 3.5km along the coast. It was approved by Thanh Hoa province in October 2015. Authorities have since handed the site over to the developer, FLC Group. The project, which will cost VND315 billion ($14 million), is set to be completed by summer 2016 and create 1,000 jobs.

More than 700 traditional fishing boats are believed to be affected.

“The province plans to transfer the boats elsewhere or to help locals find work in the tourism sector,” Ngo Van Tuan, vice chairman of the People’s Council, told VnExpress.

Authorities will compensate fishermen from VND50 million to VND70 million per boat and 30kg of rice per person per month for six months. Fishermen looking for new jobs will receive from VND8 million to VND12 million per household. Families that relocate before March 15 will receive an additional VND10 million per boat as an incentive to move early. The government will also provide a 35 percent subsidy to households that wish to build a new boat.

However, people are worried that the project marks an end to traditional fishing.

Residents support beach restoration but not allowing them to fish is deemed unacceptable. “Fishing has been our livelihood for generations. Now that it’s gone, we’ve got to react,” said Cao Van Binh from Truong Son district at the public hearing.

Trinh Tu Trong, a local resident, told VnExpress that most households do not want to receive the compensation. It is not enough to invest in a new business. Once they spend it all, they will be jobless.

“A few years ago, they took away farmland and forestland, now they ban us from fishing. […] the province is taking away all the wharves and plans to move us […] ten kilometers away,” said Mr Trong.

According to Article 25 of the Constitution, citizens have the right to organize protests in accordance with the law. However, Vietnam is still in the process of drafting its first Protest Law. Meanwhile, the Criminal Code specifies that organized protests that disrupt traffic and public operations may result in two to seven years imprisonment.

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