Several hundred farmers rallied in front of a parliament building in Vietnam’s capital on Wednesday demonstrating against what they said were illegal land grabs in two areas on the outskirts of the city, protesters said.
As many as 600 farmers from Van Giang district in Hung Yen province and Duong Noi precinct in Hanoi’s Ha Dong district gathered in front of the National Assembly Bureau to file complaints over their land disputes, according to sources.
The protests came three days after the National Assembly began its second annual session this year.
“We came around 9:00 a.m. … The police didn’t do anything to us,” said one villager from Van Giang who spoke to RFA’s Vietnamese service on condition of anonymity.
“There were about 500 or 600 villagers from Duong Noi and Van Giang that gathered together, but we were never met by officials at 35 Ngo Quyen St. (the National Assembly Bureau),” the villager said.
“We just came to air our grievances.”
A villager from Duong Noi said members of his group had managed to pass on petitions and complaints related to their land dispute, but had not received any answers from officials at the building.
”We villagers from Duong Noi and Van Giang went to Ngo Quyen St. to meet with the National Assembly Standing Committee and submit our demands as well as information on the suffering of those who have lost land,” the villager said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We from Duong Noi were able to send in several complaints, petitions and requests, but the people from Van Giang could do nothing,” he said.
“We have been doing this same thing for four years now but we have never been given a solution. Nevertheless, we must continue to try to get back our land.”
The Van Giang villager said that after two hours of standing in a downpour, the petitioners left the scene peacefully.
Van Giang group
The two groups have been repeatedly protesting in front of municipal sites in Hanoi since their land was taken by local authorities, but have received no assistance from the government.
Earlier this month some 300 people from Van Giang gathered in front of the government’s Central Office of Public Relations at Ba Dinh Square to air their grievances during a peaceful demonstration.
After villagers had protested in front of the building for some time, officials emerged to meet with them for about 30 minutes, but their complaints were not resolved.
The group is opposed to the EcoPark satellite city project, which has led to a number of confrontations over the past several years since local authorities granted the developer 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of land used by the villagers.
Land for the project was confiscated in two stages in 2009 and 2012, but around 2,000 households have refused to take compensation from the government, saying the amount is significantly below what they are owed.
In June, holdout families clashed with a group of men hired to clear their land for the EcoPark site, leaving several villagers injured and others vowing to protect their homes should demolition crews return.
Duong Noi group
Also in June, Vietnamese authorities arrested 30 farmers from Duong Noi as they held protests in front of a municipal building in the capital demanding the government return land they say they were forcibly evicted from three years ago.
The farmers had gathered in opposition to an earlier ruling by a state inspector who found that the confiscation of their land was legal.
The Hanoi city government requisitioned the farmers’ land, in Duong Noi village’s La Duong commune, in 2009 to develop two new townships, as well as a hospital and school. Since then, only 350 of 4,000 households have resisted eviction by authorities.
In the June protests in front of the Vietnam Communist Party’s Petitions Office near Mai Xuan Thuong Park, nearly 100 of the farmers had said they were willing to lay down their lives to protect their land, with some even threatening self-immolation.
All land in Vietnam belongs to the state, with people having only the right to use it. Land expropriation has been linked to several high-profile incidents of unrest in recent years.
Prime Minister Dung called in February for a revamp to the country’s land management policies and vowed to punish corrupt local officials involved in illegal land grabs.
He also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law."
Reported by Mac Lam for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.