12/04/2019, 15.09
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Police and thugs stop Catholics helping South Vietnam veterans in Tiền Giang

Fr Lê Ngọc Thanh, pastor at the Sáu Bọng church in Cần Thơ, reported the incident. “There were three to four people stationed every metre from the church,” he said. “They did not let veterans sit outside”. Redemptorist Fathers launched a programme to help disabled veterans in 2013.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Policemen and thugs in the southern province of Tiền Giang prevented the Catholic Church from helping former soldiers of the US-backed Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The latter was defeated by Communist North Vietnam after 20 years of war reuniting the country in 1975.

Fr Lê Ngọc Thanh, pastor at the Sáu Bọng Redemptorist Church, Cần Thơ City, reported the incident. The clergyman, who runs a welfare programme for veterans, spoke to the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia yesterday, saying that plainclothes police officers along with a group of hooligans prevented veterans from receiving donations on Monday.

Volunteers working with Fr Giuse Hồ Đắc Tâm, pastor at the Cần Giờ Redemptorist Church (also in Tiền Giang province), had organised the event.

“We distributed donations to injured soldiers from 13 provinces," Fr Thanh said. "A few weeks ago, we also held events like this in Kiên Giang, Bac Liêu and Cà Mau, and everything went well. But the day before yesterday the situation was tense.

"The veterans gathered at Cai Lậy to receive their gifts (for Tết, the Vietnamese New Year). The first ten got their gifts without any problem, but after that, the police interfered and stopped” the distribution.

Fr Thanh explained that Catholic organisers and volunteers moved everything to the city of Mỹ Tho, but here too the authorities intervened to block the initiative.

“The people who interfered with our event were uniformed policemen, traffic policemen, security people wearing masks, and thugs,” the priest said.

“There were three to four people stationed every metre from the church,” he said. “They did not let veterans sit outside the church.”

“People at the church told me to come there at 9:30 am,” said one veteran, “but they did not let us inside when we arrived.” Instead, “We walked around until we met some of the church’s people outside. They told us to wait for our gifts. We got our gifts.”

“I was very happy to hear that we would receive some gifts, but I’m scared,” he added. “I am afraid of the government because I was associated with the South Vietnam government.”

Redemptorist Fathers in Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon) launched their initiative in 2013 in order to provide disabled veterans of the South Vietnamese Army with donations.

This was done every year until May 2019, when Fr Lê Ngọc Thanh, head of the programme, was transferred. On 19 September, the Church in Cần Thơ announced that it would resume the programme.

In 1975, after the fall of Saigon to the Communist North, more than 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers found themselves interned in "re-education" camps where they endured torture and malnutrition.

Some 20,000 soldiers who suffered severe injuries in battle were forgotten or outright abandoned by Vietnam’s communist regime, and are now eking out a living by begging.

Most veterans are Buddhists or ancestor worshippers, but some have become Catholic thanks to the show of charity by Redemptorist Fathers.


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