Vietnamese authorities on Tuesday detained about 30 people in the capital Hanoi for protesting local government attempts to seize family farms, according to news reports and eyewitness accounts
The protest by about 100 people in the central city was broken up when 200 to 300 police surrounded the demonstrators near 34 Ly Thai To Street and herded a group of them onto a bus, sources told RFA's Vietnamese Service.
“About 10 policemen surrounded me, and they pushed us onto the bus,” protester Can Thi Theu told RFA. “They drove us to the police station in No. 6 Quang Trung street.”
Theu told RFA that police failed to produce an arrest order at the station.
“Instead, they dragged us out of the bus,” Theu said. “My body is still swollen and aching.”
Theu said she was interrogated separately and that police “used thugs’ words” against her.
A farmer and land activist from Duong Noi, a village in suburban Hanoi known for its longstanding land disputes, Theu has been through similar ordeals before.
She was arrested in April 2014 for recording videos of forced evictions, and along with her husband and other farmers was beaten by police. In September of that year, she was sentenced to 15 months in prison for “resisting [official] persons in the performance of their duties.”
Disputes over land
Land grabs in which government officials use their authority to confiscate and sell land to developers are a common cause of social unrest across Southeast Asia, sparking small- and-large scale protests on an almost weekly basis.
In many cases, local villagers say they receive little compensation or less than was promised by authorities and are forced to vacate fertile land for less-productive parcels far from their places of origin and with poor infrastructure.
Vietnamese citizens frequently gather outside various government offices in the capital Hanoi and elsewhere around the country, hoping to speak or submit letters to officials about homes or farmland they have lost to confiscations by local authorities.
Others raise the case of relatives who have been wrongly imprisoned in the authoritarian, one-party state.
The protests are coming at a particularly sensitive time for the Vietnamese government as the country’s leaders prepare for the 12th National Party Congress, set to run from Jan. 20 to 28.
On Jan. 7, Hanoi police staged an anti-terrorism drill in which one of the scenarios aimed to counter a protesting group of 300 people who had gathered in front of the people’s committee office to demand a talk with the city’s leaders about land clearing.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Hanh Seide. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.