Vietnam detains nine for ‘causing disorder’ while protesting waste treatment plant

By Thach Thao   September 5, 2018 | 09:30 am GMT+7

Quang Ngai police have detained nine people after a protest against a waste treatment plant turned violent last Sunday.

Two men and seven women have been detained for "causing public disorder" while another 21 protesters have received administrative fines, Colonel Vo Van Duong, deputy director of the police department in the central province, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

The incident happened Sunday evening when around 500 locals in Pho Thanh Commune who had been blocking the roads to Sa Huynh waste treatment plant for the past month were enjoying an arts performance.

Hundreds of residents have set up a camp to protest a waste treatment plant in Quang Ngai. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh

Hundreds of residents have set up a camp to protest a waste treatment plant in Quang Ngai. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Linh

According to the police, just as the performances ended at around 8 p.m. and the locals were returning home, they heard rumors that the plant's employees had been spotted burying trash at its landfill using concrete.

Angered by the rumor despite the fact that plant’s operations had been suspended, around 150 locals attempted to seek out the commune's chairman and stormed the People's Committee building, loudly demanding authorities to take action against the waste treatment plant.

At around 10:30 p.m., 50 people also gathered on National Highway 1 and laid down on the road and blocked it with obstacles like empty coffins in protest. Some locals also came to the protest armed with sticks, rocks and petrol bombs, and resisted the police's attempts to restore order, police said.

The protest resulted in a four-hour traffic jam on National Highway 1, and two police officers were injured as the protestors threw stones at them, they said.

Following the incident, local authorities inspected the plant but found no sign of activity, the police said.

On Tuesday morning, around 500 locals resumed the protest by marching to the Pho Thanh Commune's People's Committee building and demanding the release of the detainees.

The crowd also took a police officer and the waste treatment plant's manager hostage, but they eventually released the two after four hours of negotiation with the authorities.

For the past month, people in Pho Thanh Commune have been setting up camps around the Sa Huynh waste treatment plant and blocking the street leading to the plant with rocks, logs and an empty coffin, demanding that the plant be relocated due to fear of pollution.

The protests have resulted in the plant's operation being suspended while locals and authorities talk to resolve the issue. Following these talks, Quang Ngai authorities late last month agreed to launch an inspection into the plant's construction and pledged to punish anyone found to have committed violations.

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