Vietnamese authorities arrested 30 farmers Wednesday as they held a third day of protests in front of a municipal building in the capital demanding the government return land they say they were forcibly evicted from three years ago.
One of the group of farmers, from Ha Dong district on the outskirts of Hanoi, said they had gathered in opposition to an earlier ruling by a state inspector who found that the confiscation of their land was legal.
“We do not agree with the conclusion reached by the State Inspectorate—that is the reason for our protest,” the farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
“We don’t want to have to do this—we are in middle of the farming season. However because of this injustice, we have been forced to lead a prolonged public protest.”
Members of the security forces, who during earlier protests had looked on but had not intervened, moved in, arresting 30 of the group and taking them to a “rehabilitation” center in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district.
The Hanoi city government requisitioned the farmers’ land, in Duong Noi village’s La Duong commune, in 2009 to develop two new townships, as well as a hospital and school. Since then, only 350 of 4,000 households have resisted eviction by authorities.
On Tuesday, while holding a second day of protests in front of the Vietnam Communist Party’s Petitions Office near Mai Xuan Thuong Park, nearly 100 of the farmers had said they were willing to lay down their lives to protect their land, with some even threatening self-immolation.
The protest follows clashes which broke out last week between villagers and a group of men hired to clear their land for the controversial EcoPark satellite city, also on the periphery of Hanoi, leaving several villagers injured and others vowing to protect their homes should demolition crews return.
The site in Hung Yen province’s Van Giang district has been the scene of a number of confrontations over the past several years since local authorities granted the developer 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land used by the villagers.
The villagers say the land allocation was made without fair negotiations and have refused to leave.
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, with people having only the right to use it. Land expropriation has been linked to several high-profile incidents of unrest in recent years.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called in February for a revamp to the country’s land management policies and vowed to punish corrupt local officials involved in illegal land grabs.
Dung also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law."
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.