One Activist Dissappeared, Three Others Blocked by Police, Thugs in Wrongly-placed An Suong Highway Toll

Anti-corruption fighter Huynh Long

Defend the Defenders, January 15, 2019

One activist working to protest the wrongly-placed An Suong Highway Toll in Ho Chi Minh City had got dissappeared while three others have been blocked by local police and thugs near the facility, according to bloggers.

Blogger Vo Hong Ly, one of brave Facebookers in Vietnam on human rights, democracy and anti-corruption as well as environmental issues, said on her Facebook account that there has been no information about activist Huynh Long since late afternoon of January 14 while bloggers Phuong Ngo, Truong Huu Chau Danh and a woman got stuck in a car surrounded by police and thugs since 12 PM of the same day.

It is likely Huynh Long got arrested due to his activities which aimed to block and force the An Suong Highway Toll to stop taking money from drivers since it was wrongly placed in the National Road No. 1 in Binh Hung Hoa B ward, Binh Tan district, Ho Chi Minh City.

He may be arrested and beaten by police or being kidnapped and tortured by thugs hired by the toll owners, said other activists. Mr. Huynh Long reportedly went to the toll on late afternoon of Monday.

Meanwhile, Phuong Ngo, Truong Chau Huu Danh and the woman travelled to the toll area by their car at 6 PM yesterday. Police and thugs reportedly surround their car, not allowing to move. In order to protect themselves, the trio stay in the car and call for help from others.

While thugs threaten them, police came to request them to go out, however, the activists refuse. They would be arrested by police or even beaten by thugs if they get out of their car.

They stay in the car with little food and water during the night and still in the vehicle, connecting with other bloggers by Facebook. When the report is made, the trio are still in their car after 22 hours.

There are 96 of tolls for BOT (Build-Operation-Transfer) for roads in Vietnam, according to the state media and dozens of them were placed wrongly. These tolls belong to interest groups backed by senior officials.

In order to protest these wrongly-placed tolls, hundreds of drivers and activists in the country have been gathered to these facilities to block them. Many times, a number of tolls have been forced to suspend their works and remove barriers to allow vehicles go through.

Many drivers come with their vehicles to block wrongly-placed tolls while others have been using banknotes with small values or very large values to make their payments longer in minutes or even hours.

Under social pressure, many wrongly-placed tolls have been moved to places where they should be. However, An Suong and other tolls are still operating since they still receive strong support from senior officials and local authorities.

In order to deal with protesters, authorities in these locations where the wrongly-placed tolls station send police including riot policemen to disperse the peaceful demonstrators. Meanwhile, tolls’ owners often hire thugs to threaten and beat drivers.

Vietnam has been spending huge financial resources for building roads to serve its fast economic development. However, the quality of the newly-built roads is poor and they have been degrading in short time after being put into operation. Corruption is the main cause for the problem.

Many roads and road parts have been built by private companies under BOT form  and they are allowed to make tolls to collect fees from drivers.