HANOI, April 25 (Reuters) - Vietnamese police have detained 20 people involved in a clash over a disputed plot of land outside Hanoi, saying they obstructed officials from carrying out their duty, a state-run news website reported on Wednesday.
Violent defiance of the authority of the state is rare in Vietnam but land disputes are a growing source of friction in a country where the state owns all land and usage rights are not always clearly defined or respected.
“The detentions are to investigate who was behind this, inciting the people into opposition,” VnExpress (vnexpress.net) quoted the head of the Hung Yen provincial government office, Bui Huy Thanh, as saying.
On Tuesday, residents in the Hung Yen district of Van Giang near Hanoi clashed with riot police and other security forces mobilised to take control of a plot of land to be developed as part of a satellite city project called Ecopark.
People in Van Giang say they were not properly consulted over the repossession of the land while the local government says they were. On Monday night, many people camped out on the land to try to protect it after the authorities said they would forcibly repossess the plot. The next morning police moved in.
VnExpress quoted Thanh as saying about 1,000 police and other security forces were deployed for the operation. Villagers and other witnesses had estimated the number at between 2,000 and 4,000.
Thanh said there was no army involved and no guns were fired during the episode, but he said police used two teargas canisters to disperse a crowd that was blocking a road, the website reported.
Video and photos posted online shows police in riot gear at the scene, as well as uniformed police and other men in civilian clothing wearing red arm bands beating up a man. The sound of multiple explosions similar to gunfire can be heard.
In January, fish farmer Doan Van Vuon became something of a folk hero after his relatives used homemade explosives and guns to ambush security forces trying to seize his land outside the city of Haiphong. (Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)