Priests have accused the government of 'aiding and abetting those who intentionally violate laws, cause hatred and divide Catholics from others'

Police have looked the other way as gangs of young people have terrorised a Catholic community in north-east Vietnam, according to reports.

Throughout June gangs of youths – wearing red T-shirts with yellow stars and waving national flags – have attacked Catholics and their property in Song Ngoc parish in Quynh Luu District of Nghe An province, UCA News reported.

Eleven priests wrote in a petition to the Vietnamese government: “We see that the attacks have been carried out in an orchestrated manner, and the police know well what is occurring, but are ignoring what is going on.”

The priests accused the government of “aiding and abetting those who intentionally violate laws, cause hatred and divide Catholics from others”.

The attacks have occurred at night, and at least two Catholics have been seriously injured, sources told UCA News.

Despite a heavy police presence, the youths have ridden motorbikes at full throttle through villages at night and thrown stones at a church and at the homes of Catholics. They have also intimidated businesses owned by Catholics and, in one case, the youths, armed with knives, threatened a Catholic shop owner and destroyed his goods while also driving away his customers. Catholics told UCA News that the youths were supporters of the Communist Party and criminal elements from other areas.

The gangs have put up banners calling on locals to expel two priests active in helping fishermen sue the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp for a marine pollution disaster last year which killed hundreds of tons of fish across 125 miles.