Public protests are rare in the authoritarian country of Vietnam, let alone one in which thousands of people take to the streets. Yet amateur videos posted on YouTube and Facebook show that’s exactly what took place on Sunday in the small northern town of Vinh Yen, where mourners clashed with riot police during a funeral procession for a man who, his family claims, was killed by the son-in-law of a local official.
According to local news reports, Nguyen Tuan Anh was found dead in a sewer early on Sunday. An initial autopsy concluded that he drowned; however, police reportedly later arrested five unidentified people.
Images of the clashes have prompted widespread outrage from Vietnamese social media users, who describe the incident as another example of the kind of bad behaviour the country’s elite enjoy with impunity.
This video shows the funeral procession on Sunday. At 10 minutes in, the police and mourners start to clash.
Protests continued in Vinh Yen on Monday; images posted online,however, show them to be calmer than on Sunday. Local authorities could not be reached for comment.

“In Vietnam, people who have connections to the authorities tend to feel the same sense of impunity as they do”

Bui Xuan Quang is a Vietnamese dissident who lives in Paris. He is the director of the site Vietnam Info.
I’ve been following the events in Vinh Yen very closely. The official media outlets are ignoring it, but the news is all over opposition news sites and social media.
While there is no way to know for sure at this time whether the family’s claims are true, they certainly have hit a chord with the local population. In the videos, many people can be seen wearing headbands that mourners wear. What’s certain is that the family’s version of events certainly wouldn’t be surprising to anyone in Vietnam, as people there who have connections to the authorities tend to feel the same sense of impunity as they do. Vietnamese police, in particular, act with total impunity.
“This is a test case for the government”
Police brutality is extremely common in Vietnam – there are countless cases, and even quite a few videos of such incidents. People rarely protest over it, because street demonstrations are not allowed. However, it seems that they’re getting fed up enough with the situation to take such risks. I think the fact that Vinh Yen is a small town may have played a role here, too – there is much more solidarity in small towns than in big cities. And then there’s the fact that it’s located in the north of the country, where there is a very active Catholic youth movement, which is repressed by the police. All this, and increasing means of communication thanks to social media, seems to have contributed to this particular case making popular anger boil over.
What I’m really interested in now is seeing how the authorities react to these events, and whether they choose to talk about it. Due to the spread of these videos, this is no longer just a local incident. It’s become a national problem, and a test case for the government.