In one of the biggest land confrontations in Vietnam, about 2,000 Vietnamese villagers hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails on Tuesday at a larger group of armed security forces moving to seize their land in the outskirts of the capital Hanoi, witnesses said.
Backed by bulldozers, cranes, and excavators, more than 3,000 police and military personnel and unidentified men not in uniform moved in at the break of dawn to occupy 70 hectares (173 acres) of land in the district of Van Giang just east of Hanoi.
In the seven-hour siege, police fired warning shots to keep the people at bay while the farmers resisted the occupation by throwing bricks, glass bottles, stones, and Molotov cocktails, the witnesses said.
"Two thousand farmers from three villages of Van Giang District rallied and fought thousands of policemen and soldiers who came [to take] a 70-hectare area early in the morning," one resident of Xuan Quan village told RFA. "There were 3,000 or more [security forces]."
"We [told them] this is our land, we have not sold it and not yet taken [any] payments."
One villager said their crops were mostly destroyed. Ten residents from the Phung Cong and Xuan Quan villages were arrested.
Map showing the district where the land siege occurred April 24, 2012.
Local authorities want to take back the land for use in a satellite city development.
The farmers said local authorities granted developer Viet Hung Co. Ltd. some 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of their land without conducting fair negotiations with their representatives.
Viet Hung has planned to build EcoPark, a satellite city with investment costs estimated at around U.S. $250 million, on the site since 2004.
The project was halted following a series of protests in 2006, but the farmers say development has since restarted.
The farmers, who have been staging occasional protests since the project was launched, camped out on the land overnight Tuesday after hearing the long-threatened eviction would go ahead.
"If they want the land we just ask that the investors come to talk to us directly about it, but they won't," a villager named Tuyen in Van Giang told Reuters news agency.
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, and people only have the right to use it. Land expropriation has been linked to several high-profile incidents of unrest in recent years. Revamp
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in February called for a revamp to the country’s land management policies and vowed to punish corrupt local officials for their role in a high-profile land eviction case in Hai Phong city.
Farmer Doan Van Vuon is in jail for attacking security forces who came to repossess his farmland in the northern port city on Jan. 5 in a case widely reported in the country's media, which is tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
But Prime Minister Dung, who has taken a personal interest in the case, called the repossession and forced eviction “illegal,” asking officials to expedite Vuon's trial and reduce the charges against him.
Dung also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law." Reported by Viet Ha of RFA's Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.