Vietnam mob holds cop captive, demands suspect’s release in return

By Ha An, Thanh Nien News

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Police assigned to protect the headquarters of Phu Tho Province's Tam Nong District, which was surrounded by some 100 local residents on May 6, who demanded the release of a suspect.  / PHOTO: NAM ANH
Police in the northern province of Phu Tho agreed to release a suspect on bail after 100 of his neighbors took a local cop hostage.
Nguyen Cong Thuc, 35, was discharged on Wednesday, the day after Te Le Commune’s residents freed Deputy Chief Dao Dieu Son of the Tam Nong District Police Division.
Deputy Chief Son was seized by the mob during a Monday meeting attended by residents and district leaders to discuss Thuc's release.
Thuc was arrested on April 24 after police caught him extorting VND5 million (US$235) from Nguyen Ngoc The, 32, director of Song Vang Co., Ltd., which extracting sand and gravel from the Bua River.
Colonel Ha Minh Tan, vice director of Phu Tho’s Police Department, told Thanh Nien that the dredger had told police that Thuc had threatened him and demanded VND10 million ($470).
Thuc’s family claimed that the dredger was obliged to pay compensation for the damage his company’s activities had caused to local farmers, so his arrest was improper.
After refusing to accept the official explanation for Thuc's arrest, about 100 residents surrounded Son, and held him captive at the headquarters of Te Le Commune People’s Committee, demanding Thuc's release.
The officer was not released until the next morning when Col. Tan came to talk to the residents.
Later that same day, the residents gathered at the office of Tam Nong District People’s Committee, and once again demanded that the authorities release Thuc and take action against the Song Vang Company.
In response, police assigned officers to secure the site, while officials talked the crowd into dispersing.
According to Col. Tan, they allowed Thuc to be released on bail because his alleged offense was not serious and his release would ease tensions with area residents.
Meanwhile, relevant agencies have proposed that local authorities suspend Song Vang's operations pending an investigation into the mob's accusations, he said.

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