Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vietnam's southern wharf a gangland

Stick-wielding men threaten two reporters from Thanh Nien and Vietnam News Agency (far right) in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province’s Tan Thanh District on Wednesday. The reporters were investigating claims that a violent gang had taken over the district’s Cha
Two reporters were threatened by a gang of stick-wielding men who sank a boat at the Cha La wharf in the coastal province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau after it docked without paying due “fees.”
Tong Thanh T. and his gang from Tan Thanh District levy unofficial fees ranging from several hundred thousand dong to VND1.5 million (US$89) per month for cargo and passenger boats that use Cha La wharf.
On Sunday, the gang rammed a sand ferry-boat and broke open its bow as it anchored without paying money.
Three weeks earlier, they severely beat a ferryman because he carried a passenger from the wharf without asking permission.
On Wednesday, local boatman Huynh Van Chung carried two reporters – one from Thanh Nien and one from Vietnam News Agency – from Cha La to Saigon SSA port, in the same district.
The reporters had come to investigate claims made by locals that a gang was ruling the area with violence.
Five members of T.’s gang followed in a speedboat.
As Chung docked, the gang rammed their boat into Chung’s and were about to beat him with canes and clubs when he jumped into the river.
The thugs then wrecked and sank Chung’s boat and were set to assault the reporters when Chung’s mother arrived to beg them to stop.
Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Tan Thanh District police showed up after the gang had left.
No ferryman dared to bring the reporters back to Cha La wharf afterward and they had to call officials at a border post in Phu My Town for a ride.
On Thursday, one of T.’s gang members Nguyen Van Chum, 38, told Tan Thanh District police he and two other members – Khang and Phuong – had attacked Chung and had threatened reporters on Wednesday.
Despite the brazen admission of guilt, police have yet to do anything about any of the incidents related to intimidation and violence at Cha La wharf.
Reported by Nguyen Long