Police in northern Vietnam’s Nam Dinh province have beaten and arrested villagers resisting the eviction of their homes to make way for an industrial park, witnesses said, in the latest dispute over land expropriation in the one-party communist state.
The clashes broke out after hundreds of police personnel arrived early Thursday morning in Vu Ban district and began evicting residents, who have opposed plans to be resettled to make room for the Bao Minh Industrial Park.
Around 100 residents, some armed with farming tools, tried to block the police from the area and threw sand at them, but many were beaten, residents said.
“First we spread out in a line facing them and blocked them from entering that area. Then they moved in, and we threw sand at them,” one resident told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Our side was made up of peasants only. Some took up sickles, some had hoes. … Our side just threw sand and rocks at them,” another resident said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The security forces, armed with water cannons and riot gear, were in the hundreds, they said.
“Their side had [police] cars, water cannons and [riot] police. There were 400 of them,” he said.
“They were carrying clubs and holding transparent shields in front of them. They hit us with the clubs; they hit really hard,” the first resident said.
He said the security forces threatened to opened fire, beating protesters and arresting several.
“They said they would shoot us if we didn’t leave, that they would shoot whoever acted against them.”
“They’ve arrested several people, pushing them into an enclosed truck and driving them away. One person was beaten unconscious,” the second resident said.
A total of 988 households in three communes in the district are assigned to be resettled for the park, a project of the Vietnamese textile company Vinatex.
But 118 of them have refused to leave, saying the compensation offered them, at 67,000 dong (U.S. $3) per square meter, is too low.
Some other locals said authorities had forced them to accept the low compensation.
Residents opposed to the project say they have sent petitions to the province, parliament, and government inspectors, but to no avail.
Land expropriation has been linked to several high-profile incidents of unrest in recent years in communist Vietnam, where all land belongs to the state and people only have the right to use it.
The Vu Ban clash follows one of the biggest land confrontations that took place in nearby Hung Yen district in late April.
About 2,000 villagers hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at a larger group of armed security forces moving to seize their land in Van Giang on the outskirts of the capital Hanoi.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in February called for a revamp to the country’s land management policies, vowing to punish corrupt local officials for their role in a high-profile land eviction case in Hai Phong city.
Reported by Viet Ha for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.