Clergy at Catholic monastery in Vietnam say were assaulted over land dispute

HANOI (Reuters) - Catholic clergy in a monastery in Vietnam said they were beaten by people they believed were plain clothes police on Wednesday in an on-going land dispute.

Dozens of men arrived at the Thien An Saint Benedict Monastery in the central province of Thua Thien Hue and took down a cross and a statue of Jesus on land the church says it owns, monk Joseph Mary Chu Manh Cuong told Reuters.

He said the men used sticks, saws and water pipes to beat the priests, monks and nuns from the monastery.

Thua Thien Hue police said they could not immediately verify the information and the local authority was not immediately available for comment.

Land disputes are common in Communist-ruled Vietnam, and conflicts over property between Catholics and local authorities have been one of the main obstacles over a normalization of relations between Vietnam and the Vatican.

Cuong said the monastery opposes the unauthorized building of a road to connect a lake and a tourist resort over its land.

In 2008, more than 1,000 Vietnamese Catholics protested in Hanoi as eight Catholics went on trial over their attempt to claim a plot of disputed land in the capital, a rare expression of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy