BANGKOK—Dozens of Vietnamese Catholics were injured and dozens more detained as they tried to bury the remains of an elderly woman at a cemetery the government plans to turn into a tourist spot, according to witnesses.
Sixty-two people were beaten by a large cohort of local police and a mobile unit identified as Unit 113, along with what appeared to be hired thugs, witnesses said.
They also said in interviews that police had confiscated the coffin that contained the woman’s remains.
The clash occurred in Con Dau parish, near the central Vietnamese city of Danang.
Authorities had posted a sign barring burials at the cemetery on April 20, because the land was to be transferred to make way for an eco-tourism project, and last Sunday they told the family of Ho Nhu, who died May 1, not to bury her there.
“They are in dense formation around the three-way intersection to the parish cemetery. They took up positions in front of the cemetery gate to block Mrs. Nhu’s family from taking her coffin there for a burial ceremony,” one resident said.
Land protests common
Late Monday, “They raised a barrier in front of the cemetery and banned people from entering … People put tents up to stay, and they were determined to bury Mrs. Nhu there.”
Sources quoted by Agence France-Presse said police fired into the air and beat people with batons and electric prods.
Local authorities could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear whether the detainees had already been released.
Land disputes between churches and the state have become more common in recent years as the country industrializes.
There have also been demonstrations by Catholics seeking the return of Church property seized, along with many other buildings and farms, more than 50 years ago when communists took power in what was then North Vietnam.
Original reporting and translation from the Vietnamese by Viet Long for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Khanh Nguyen. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.