An ex-Vietnamese soldier, in jail over an armed attack on security forces wanting to reposses his farmland, has asked for a "trusted" lawyer to represent him in a case that has attracted the attention of the top brass of the ruling Communist Party.
The move came as Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung prepared to hold a meeting next week with government and local officials after calling for an investigation into the case widely reported in the tightly-controlled state media.
Doan Van Vuon, 49, and his men had allegedly laid homemade land mines and fired improvised shotguns when security forces enforced the eviction in northern Vietnam on Jan. 5, seriously wounding four policemen and two soldiers.
Vuon, together with his two brothers and a nephew, has been arrested for attempted murder in the incident in Haiphong city's Tien Lang district.
Vuon said in a signed letter dated Jan. 31 sent from his cell on Thursday to the Haiphong Police Investigation Office that he only "trusted" lawyer Nguyen Viet Hung to represent him, refusing any other attorneys appointed by local enforcement agencies.
“His family already called me on the phone about that, and said it’s only I [that would be accepted by Vuon]. But I would have to confirm it before taking charge. Anyway … I would have to do it when people willingly request it," Hung told RFA.
The lawyer said he agreed with some key experts that the government action on Vuon by was illegal.
“Actually the matter has been commented on by Prof. Dang Hung Vo [former deputy minister of resources and environment], by Professor Dinh Xuan Thao, and by lawyer Le Duc Triet. My opinion would be the same as theirs [accusing local authorities of illegal action]."
The authorities had sent 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 was given the land to farm under a 14-year lease but reports said the local government wanted it back to house an infrastructure project and to rent the remaining area at a higher cost.
Some state media reports condemned the attack by the farmers while questioning whether authorities had the right to use force to eject the family from leased state land.
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state and people only have the right to use it. Land expropriation has been linked to several incidents of unrest in recent years.
Prime Minister Dung plans to hold a meeting on the issue next week with government officials and local Haiphong officials.
Le Hieu Dang, vice-president of the Ho Chi Minh City Fatherland Front Committee, a peripheral organization of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, told RFA that the case should be resolved in a satisfactory manner to avoid discrediting the party.
“People want to see if the Party’s leaders’ words and deeds would match. If they don’t match the already low confidence [in the Party] will go lower," he said.
"It’s a risk the Party and Government caused to themselves without any enemies ... [and] make it difficult for themselves and weaken themselves.”
A National Assembly (parliament) representative, historian Duong Trung Quoc, told RFA that the case highlighted what he called the ineffectiveness of the country's land law.
The case "has exposed [the law's] limits," he said, calling for a review to make it more "appropriate.”
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.