World

Vietnamese police held hostage over land dispute

Villagers allege their land was illegally seized by military-owned telecoms firm

HANOI At least a dozen Vietnamese police have been held hostage over a land dispute with residents near Hanoi, activists and state media said yesterday, in a rare show of defiance against the communist authorities.

The incident began on Saturday in the suburban My Duc district when authorities clashed with villagers who alleged their land was illegally seized for sale by a military-owned telecommunications firm.

The exact number of policemen and officials being held by residents could not immediately be confirmed, but images on social media showed at least 12 uniformed men under guard.

"Local residents said they have no intention of releasing the hostages unless the central government intervenes," said La Viet Dung, a social activist who visited the site yesterday.

"People have closed off their villages. No one can come in or out. The police are surrounding the area also, preventing media access. The situation is tense," Mr Dung added.

ARRESTED

A My Duc resident told AFP yesterday police had fired in the air during Saturday's clashes.

"Some residents were also taken into custody by police for unknown reasons," he said, requesting anonymity.

Local police and authorities refused to comment.

But state media said four residents were taken into custody while some police were also being held by villagers. "Some citizens... have committed acts of obstruction and illegally held Hanoi police officers," the Vietnam News Agency said, quoting a police announcement.

Land disputes are common in Vietnam, where powerful individuals and companies often make claims on property.

The government strictly controls freedom of expression and the right to protest but flashpoints do occur.

In 2012, a Vietnamese fish farmer used homemade weapons to resist a forced eviction and injured seven policemen. The farmer was jailed for five years, but his case became a symbol of growing public dissatisfaction over land rights.

In 2013, a gunman killed a provincial official before committing suicide in adispute over land in northern Vietnam.

- AFP

Vietnampolicemedia