Vietnam Arrests 11 People in Land Dispute in Lai Chau Province

by Defend the Defenders, April 20, 2017

On April 18, authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Lai Chau arrested 11 local residents in relation to a land dispute case, charging them with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code, the Nhan Dan newspaper reported.

The detainees are from five related families in Dong Phong ward, Lai Chau city who were said to use man-made weapons to resist local police forces during the land seizure operations.

The families were said to have caused injuries to over ten policemen and local cadres. The local government deployed Special Forces to deal with them, the newspaper said.

The land seizure occurred on Tuesday after the families allegedly illegally occupied 60 square meters of their neighbor and 1,000 square meters of public land but refused to give it back as the local authorities required, the newspaper said.

The detainees may face imprisonment of between six months and three years in prison, according to the Vietnamese current law.

Land dispute is a thorny issue in Vietnam, where all land belongs to the state and residents only enjoy user rights. Authorities can seize land for socio-economic development or allocate it to property and industrial developers without paying adequate compensation to the users.

Five days ago, a land dispute in My Duc district, Hanoi resulted in violence. Local authorities arrested 15 residents of the Mieu Mon village who protest the seizure of 47 hectares of agricultural land. In response, the villagers detained 38 policemen and cadres and kept them as hostages.

After the local government released detained farmers, Mieu Mon villagers released 18 of their hostages. They still hold around 20 policemen and cadres.

The case could become more complicated and violent as the Hanoi government has yet to agree to negotiate with Mieu Mon villagers, who vowed to sacrifice their lives in order to protect their land.