Vietnam has jailed 11 people from the ethnic Nung group for up to four years as punishment for clashing with security forces over a land grab in a northern province, sources said Friday.
They were arrested in August 2011 after clashes between about 1,000 villagers and police and soldiers over a long running land dispute in Son Dong and Luc Ngan districts in Bac Giang province.
Five of them were jailed on Friday by a military court for between 42 and 54 months for “disturbing public order” while six others were sentenced by a separate court to between 12 and 48 months for the same offence a day earlier.
A relative of one of the defendants told RFA that their families were not satisfied with the verdicts athough they admitted that some of them had been pushed to act rashly.
”The Villagers never knew how to defend themselves in court, [they] only begged for leniency,” another villager who monitored both the court sessions said.
The clashes occurred when around 1,000 police personnel, militias and soldiers moved to seize land from people in the villages of Kim Son, Phong Minh and Phong Van in Luc Ngan district.
More than one thousand villagers rallied to defend their land, throwing rocks, glass bottles and wielding farm tools and kitchen knives.
The problem began way back in 2003 when local authorities decided to relocate about 2,300 families of the Son Dong and Luc Ngan districts from land that was to be converted into a national firing range.
Authorities pledged to compensate the villagers for the land and crops but many villagers said the compensation was inappropriate.
The compensation amounts varied between villages and ethnic groups, the villagers said.
“Those provided to the Nung ethnic group are far less than those given to other Vietnamese and not in line with the decrees signed by the Prime Minister,” one villager complained.
Villagers from the Luc Ngan and Son Dong districts had been visiting government offices since 2007 to complain over the inappropriate compensation.
On Oct. 27, 2010, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung decided that the government investigate those complaints within about a year.
In January last year, he ordered a resolution to the compensation issue but no villagers received any clear cut answers from local authorites, villagers said.
"There had been too many complaints and petitions for too many years but we got no responses, no solutions," one digruntled villager said.
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.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.