Evicted Farmers Threaten Self-Immolation

Protesters demand Vietnamese authorities return their land during a demonstration in the capital.

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Villagers confront security personnel who came to seize their land in Van Giang district in the outskirts of Vietnam's capital Hanoi, April 24, 2012.
Photo courtesy of a citizen journalist.

Around 100 farmers held a second day of protests in front of a municipal building in the Vietnamese capital Tuesday, threatening to self-immolate if officials do not return land they say they were forcibly evicted from three years ago.

The farmers, from Ha Dong district on the outskirts of Hanoi, gathered around the Vietnam Communist Party’s Petitions Office near Mai Xuan Thuong Park, wearing shirts resembling the Vietnamese flag with anti-corruption slogans printed on them.

“We have brought our lunch to the site while we continue to demand the return of our land,” said one protester who spoke to RFA’s Vietnamese service on condition of anonymity.

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.

“We are willing to risk our lives to keep our land, even if it means self-immolating in protest,” the farmer said.

Security forces looked on as the farmers protested, but did not arrest anyone.

Capital clash

The protest follows clashes which broke out last week between villagers and a group of men hired to clear their land for the controversial EcoPark satellite city, also on the periphery of Hanoi, leaving several villagers injured and others vowing to protect their homes should demolition crews return.

The site in Hung Yen province’s Van Giang district has been the scene of 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.

The villagers say the land allocation was made without fair negotiations and have refused to leave.

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.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan 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.

Dung also warned officials to ensure that evictions and land seizures are carried out "in strict accordance with the law."

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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