Vietnamese authorities use force and tear gas on rioting farmers | Connect Asia

Vietnamese authorities use force and tear gas on rioting farmers

Vietnamese authorities use force and tear gas on rioting farmers

Updated 25 April 2012, 14:11 AEST

In Vietnam, thousands of riot police and other men not wearing uniforms have taken control of a plot of land outside Hanoi.

Locals there had been resisting a property development.

It's a long running case. The Viet Hung company has been trying to build a $250 million satellite city since 2004 but it stalled after residents protested that the $17,000 compensation offered was too low.

But yesterday, authorities blocked all the roads leading into the area in Hung Yen province where the farmers gathered and seized the 72 hectare area using tear gas, beating protesters and apparently arresting 10 people.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Philip Taylor, School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University

TAYLOR: Well it's been a notable confrontation, very large numbers of people facing off, in some reports 700 families supporting some 160 residents directly affected. As you noted some arrests in the phase stage of the eviction went ahead. And yet another remarkable aspect of this protest is the speed with which it's entered the blogosphere, social media have picked up the images of the protest, there are YouTube videos showing this quite dramatic line-up between thousands of police in some reports and the villagers carrying Molotov cocktails and clubs. So it's unlikely that the image of this quite violent and large dispossession is going to leave the minds of the public of Vietnam very quickly.

COCHRANE: And I read that it hasn't been carried in the state media at all this particular issue, but the bloggers have actually travelled to the area to work as citizen journalists and to document things. How is that changing controversial issues like this in Vietnam?

TAYLOR: Well this year land protests themselves have been going on for a very long time. They are in some respects an inevitable consequence of the market-based model of development that the government is pursuing as developers try to buy up cheap land and secure the authorities' assistance in keeping the prices low and suppressing the dissent. But yes, this year there have been a number of protests that have made it into the media, and there's a greater degree of public debate about the morality of the local authorities who are basically both benefiting from the profits from the development, but also holding the law and the power to force the villagers to just buckle under.

COCHRANE: In January there was a high profile case where farmers near the city of Haiphong actually ambushed security forces with guns and homemade land mines when a land eviction was about to take place. This has become quite a high profile event, the leader of it's become a cult hero I understand in Vietnam, and the Prime Minister actually criticised the local authorities for the way they handled the case. Do you think that really notable high profile events like this that do sort of breach the secrecy of state media are making people more willing to stand up for their land rights?

TAYLOR: Yes I think that's the case and really the authorities are in a dilemma. On the one hand their legitimacy rests on fostering growth and development and securing investment and the impression of modernisation, such as the current protest this week has been about an urban development. On the other hand however the government is really as a socialist government claims to defend the interests of the farmers, basically its support rests on them, it came to power by mobilising rural people. So it is a fissure going down to the heart of Vietnamese society, and it is a topic about which there will be a great deal of debate. And I'm afraid no easy answers.

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