A rice farmer in northern Vietnam died Thursday after being beaten into a critical condition by police and other groups during a land grab, according to his wife and neighbors.
Police personnel were directed by local authorities to evict Nguyen Van Hung, 50, from his rice paddy in Bac Giang province on Dec. 23 last year, according to residents of the area.
The Provincial People’s Committee, a local government coordinating group, had wanted land seized so that it could be rented to the Thach Ban Corporation for construction of a brick plant, they said.
Hung’s wife Than Thi Binh told RFA shortly after her husband died on Thursday that the family could not afford to send him to hospital and that he languished to death at home.
”We are so poor that we have no insurance. All that we have left for the household meals are a couple of hundred kilograms (several hundred pounds) of raw rice,” she said.
“We couldn’t sell the rice to pay for his hospital fees, so we could only use [some local treatment].”
A neighbor told RFA that “dozens” of people, including police personnel, attacked Hung as they set out to evict several residents from their farmland in Bac Giang’s Yen Dung district near the Chinese border.
“Hung ran out to his rice paddy to defend it when police and a mob under police command came to take it,” the neighbor said.
“There were so many people—you couldn’t count how many dozens of them—that flocked around him, beating, kicking, and slapping him,” he said.
“They beat him in the face and he vomited blood … We witnessed it. Everybody saw it all.”
‘They didn’t care’
Another resident of Yen Dung district, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his land was also taken by authorities during the attack.
“At around 6:30 a.m. [on Friday Vietnam time] the enforcement group came to claim the land. We accompanied them, displaying the national flag and [national founder Ho Chi Minh’s] portrait, to be respectful. But they didn’t care,” the resident said.
“They herded everybody into a group. Whoever resisted got beaten. They tore down the flag and the portrait. Then they unleashed dogs to chase the villagers off,” he said.
“Police and self-defense troops—even female security—all came to enforce the eviction.”
Residents said authorities in Yen Dung district repossessed hundreds of hectares of land from farmers in the same area 10 years ago, but had left it barren without moving to begin construction on the site.
Thach Ban General Director Nguyen The Cuong had earlier told the Vietnamese newspaper Dan Viet that he could not afford to purchase the land and had sought help from local officials.
“The available land is costly, so the Committee has agreed to retake the rice paddies to give me a cheaper price,” he told the newspaper.
Government land seizures are common in communist Vietnam and have become a key source of complaints and protests in the country.
Two weeks after the move to take Hung’s land, soldier-turned farmer Doan Van Vuon led a group of men in an armed resistance against authorities in northern Vietnam who tried to evict him from state land.
Vuon, 49, and his men had allegedly laid homemade land mines and fired improvised shotguns when security forces enforced the eviction in Haiphong city on Jan. 5, seriously wounding four policemen and two soldiers.
Stunned by the resistance, the authorities sent reinforcements comprising about 100 police officers and soldiers wearing bulletproof vests and riot gear to repossess the 19-hectare (47-acre) leased swampland which Vuon had converted into a seafood farm.
Vuon, together with his two brothers and a nephew, were arrested in January for attempted murder in the incident, which has highlighted the plight of people grappling with forced government land takeovers in the country.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.