HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnamese authorities yesterday used water cannon and electric rods to end
a five-month long protest by villagers blockading a textile plant that serves global fashion brands, an official and a villager said.
The blockade represents another challenge to the communist nation’s government over industrial pollution woes, at a time when Vietnam seeks more foreign investors to keep up one of the highest rates of growth in Southeast Asia.
Hundreds of people from Hai Duong have maintained watch in shifts day and night since April to stop work at the Pacific Crystal Textiles mill, operated by Hong Kong-based Pacific Textiles.
Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo is among those affected by the stoppage, which has led Pacific Textiles to report “significant financial impact”.
Yesterday, about 500 policemen used water cannon and electric rods to disperse around 200 villagers, said villager Bui Van Nguyet, who was one of the protesters.
Two people were injured as the policemen beat protesters and set on fire a field tent pitched in front of the plant, he added.
“It’s unimaginably evil,” Mr Nguyet said.
Talks with protesters had proved unsuccessful, said a local official, adding that Pacific Textiles had promised to ensure better environmental standards.
In a statement, Pacific Textiles said its staff were able to enter the factory yesterday, but it was not certain whether the issue had been completely resolved.
Villagers have accused Pacific Textiles of multiple discharges of wastewater since last year. The company has said it only discharged waste water once, on December 24, 2016, and has been taking steps to halt further discharges. A local authority fined the company 672 million dong ($29,558) for the December spill.