Village leader among six dead in Vietnamese land rights dispute


  • Vietnam
  • Saturday, 11 Jan 2020

Farmers working at a paddy field. Three villagers, including a community leader, and at least three police officers are dead in Vietnam following a dispute about land rights in a village on the outskirts of Hanoi. - VNN/ANN

HANOI: Three villagers, including a community leader, and at least three police officers are dead in Vietnam following a dispute about land rights in a village on the outskirts of Hanoi, a villager said on Saturday (Jan 11).

The deaths are the result of conflict in the village of Dong Tam. Four casualties - three police officers and one villager - were initially announced in a statement by Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security on Thursday.

The number of villagers killed has since risen to at least three, and includes the death of community leader Le Dinh Kinh and his son, Le Dinh Chuc.

"I am at the gate of Dong Tam village now, awaiting the arrival of Mr Kinh and his son’s body. They are dead. The commune authorities sent a notice to his family to prepare to receive their corpses," said a villager, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of revenge from authorities.

A number of Vietnamese intellectuals and writers have penned a letter to Hanoi's leaders calling for an end to "violent acts" towards people who have lost their land.

Around one kilometre away from the village lies Mieu Mon Airport, around which Vietnam's Defence Ministry is currently constructing a fence to protect the land. Construction of the fence began on Dec 31.

Villagers have expressed anger about the demarcation of land, which they say has led to farmland being taken away from them by the government.

A video shared online, recorded at 3 am on Thursday), shows villagers saying they will defend their farmland and their village leader.

Photos also circulated on social media showing rows of police trucks entering the village before sunrise. In other images, police can be seen in full riot gear entering the village. Roads to the area have since been blocked off.

"Early in the morning of Jan 9, police used force against land activists in the Dong Tam commune, in My Duc district of Hanoi," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

"There are reports that some of those activists may have used violence against the police," he added. "As a result, a tragedy occurred and several deaths were reported."

The wife of one of the dead officers posted on social media saying that 3,000 police had entered the village on Thursday morning.

Authorities have since arrested at least 30 villagers and continue to build the fence around Mieu Mon airport.

The government claims the right to recover the land, while villagers have protested against this action.

"The dispute between local farmers and the Vietnam government regarding land in the Dong Tam area has been an ongoing issue for years," Robertson added.

"Unfair and arbitrary land confiscation for economic projects, displacing local people, has been a major problem in the country for the past two decades.

"Vietnam should also permit immediate and unfettered access to the area to local and international journalists, diplomats, UN agency officials and other impartial observers to assess what happened and monitor the government's investigation of this incident."

In April 2017, more than 30 police officers were detained as hostages by villagers after police came to the village to arrest locals without issuing an arrest warrant.

Land rights are an extremely sensitive issue in Vietnam, a single-party communist state with a population of over 95 million. - dpa/Asian News Network

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