Vietnam farmer jailed for military-style defense of land

HANOI Fri Apr 5, 2013 7:28am EDT

1 of 3. Doan Van Vuon (C) stands with policemen in front of the dock at a court during a verdict session in Hai Phong, 100 km (62 miles) east of Hanoi, April 5, 2013, in this picture provided by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

Credit: Reuters/Doan Tan/VNA/Handout

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HANOI (Reuters) - A fish farmer who became a cult hero in Vietnam after fighting off an illegal eviction with homemade guns and mines was jailed on Friday for five years for attempted murder in a case that has stirred public anger over state-backed land grabs.

Doan Van Vuon, plus two of his brothers and one nephew, were given jail terms of between two and five years for injuring seven police and soldiers in northern Haiphong last January, state media reported. Two of their wives received suspended sentences of 15-18 months for resisting officials.

Land grabs, both legal and illegal, are a major source of public discontent with the state in Communist Vietnam, which owns all the country's land. The case has been a major talking point in social media and blogs, with critics calling for changes in land laws.

The government offered land leases of 20 years to farmers as part of pro-peasant policies in the 1990s, but critics say corrupt state officials have allowed illegal seizures in return for kickbacks from businesses.

State television showed footage this week of the courtroom displaying the cooking gas cylinders, electrical cables and steel pipes Vuon and his relatives used for bombs and hand guns.

The authorities in Haiphong have admitted their eviction was unlawful and several officials face trial next week.

Tran Dinh Trien, a defense lawyer in the trial, said Vuon had no intention of causing harm and had exercised all legal means to protect his land before staging his spectacular display of resistance.

"I had warned them that I would resist. It pained me to have to criminalize this civil issue, so that the agencies would look into it," Trien quoted Vuon as saying in a Facebook posting.

Rapid economic growth, foreign investment and industrial expansion has made land highly lucrative, and Vietnamese who dare to criticize a government that responds harshly to dissent say it has allowed abuses of broad clauses in leases that allow land seizures for reasons of national security, defense, economic development and public interest.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said the lengths to which Vuon went should serve as a wake-up call for the government about a growing problem.

"The issue of widespread arbitrary land seizures by corrupt officials or without due process and just compensation is what really made this trial resonate in the minds of ordinary Vietnamese people," he said.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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Comments (3)
Good job. These corrupted government officials will stop at nothing. You too shouldn’t stop and should retaliate by force.

Apr 05, 2013 3:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Good job. These corrupted government officials will stop at nothing. You too shouldn’t stop and should retaliate by force.

Apr 05, 2013 3:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
UncleMatt wrote:
Thes men should have their sentences suspended. They had crossed the line to violent measures but had good reason to do so to defnd their family. The fact that the governmant there is actually holding some of the initial perpetrators of these land grab schemes accountable for their actions is admirable. Too bad the American government no longer does the same. Greedy wealthy sociopaths destroyed the economy of our entire nation and caused millions to lose their homes and not only walk free with their illgotten gains but were even rewarded with taxpayer dollars after the fact. “Too big to fail” BULLSHIT!

Apr 05, 2013 5:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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