Vil­lagers urged to free po­lice, of­fi­cials

Stand­off be­gan when res­i­dents in Hanoi said land was seized il­le­gally

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

hanoi — The mayor of Viet­nam’s cap­i­tal on Thurs­day urged vil­lagers en­gaged in a land dis­pute with au­thor­i­ties to re­lease the re­main­ing 20 po­lice of­fi­cers and of­fi­cials they have been hold­ing since the week­end.

The state-run Tuoi Tre news­pa­per quoted Nguyen Duc Chung as telling lo­cal of­fi­cials to per­suade the res­i­dents to re­move bar­ri­cades erected around Dong Tam vil­lage in My Duc Dis­trict on the out­skirts of Hanoi.

The stand­off be­gan Sat­ur­day when po­lice clashed with vil­lagers who say their farm­land was taken il­le­gally for sale by a mil­i­tary-run telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions firm. Nine vil­lagers were ar­rested and ac­cused of dis­turb­ing pub­lic or­der but were later re­leased.

The vil­lagers held 38 of­fi­cials and po­lice of­fi­cers at a com­mu­nity house, but they later re­leased 15 riot po­lice, while three others man­aged to es­cape.

“I will ask the vil­lagers to soon re­lease those who are be­ing held,” Chung said, try­ing to as­sure the vil­lage that au­thor­i­ties won’t use force to end the stand­off. “The cadres are to pro­tect peo­ple, not to sup­press them. They are like you broth­ers and chil­dren, so they should soon be re­leased.”

He said the re­main­ing of­fi­cials and po­lice of­fi­cers were treated well.

The talks were planned for Thurs­day, but the vil­lagers and au­thor­i­ties could not agree on where to hold the meet­ing.

Chung said that he wanted to meet vil­lage rep­re­sen­ta­tives as soon as Fri­day.

At the cen­ter of the dis­pute are 145 acres of land that had been re­served for a mil­i­tary air­field but part of which was given to the mil­i­tary-run tele­com com­pany Vi­et­tel two years ago to de­velop a mil­i­tary project.

The vil­lagers in­sist the land is theirs, while au­thor­i­ties say it be­longs to the mil­i­tary and was il­le­gally oc­cu­pied by res­i­dents.

Chung said au­thor­i­ties de­cided to con­duct a com­pre­hen­sive in­spec­tion of the land to de­ter­mine who owns it. The find­ing will be an­nounced within 45 days, he said.

Pend­ing the de­ci­sion, Vi­et­tel will tem­po­rar­ily sus­pend work on the project, he said.

Land dis­putes are com­mon in Viet­nam, where res­i­dents of­ten say that their land was taken for in­fra­struc­ture or other in­dus­trial or res­i­den­tial projects and that they were not prop­erly com­pen­sated.

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