Rebel Hanoians facing punishment for 'seizing' military land in prolonged dispute

By VnExpress   July 7, 2017 | 02:23 pm GMT+7
Rebel Hanoians facing punishment for 'seizing' military land in prolonged dispute
A barrier put up by villagers in Hanoi as a land dispute heated in April. Photo by VnExpress

An inspection found the residents spent years fighting for what belongs to the military.

An investigation into a high-profile land dispute in Hanoi, which reached its climax when 38 officials and policemen were taken hostage in April, has been completed, with disgruntled residents poised to face the music.

Local government inspectors announced on Friday that the land in Dong Tam Commune in My Duc District has always belonged to the military.

They ordered the commune and district officials to review why the dispute started in the first place, and to “take strong measures to force citizens who had illegally seized military land to return it”.

The inspectors also asked Hanoi police to work with the defense ministry to punish individuals for wrongful management and use of military land.

According to the investigation, which ended two weeks ago, military departments had signed annual contracts with Dong Tam Commune to rent part of 237 hectares (585 acres) of military land to local residents for farming purposes.

The contracts expired in 2012, but some families were still working on the land, it said.

Local authorities said the land dispute has lingered on for years.

The situation became worse in February this year when military-owned telecoms giant Viettel started building an airport in the disputed area. Tensions reached a climax in April when villagers took 38 policemen and officials hostage following the arrest of four residents who refused to budge from the land.

It took a week to resolve the dramatic standoff, and Hanoi Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung was forced to step in and reassure the villagers that the problem would be solved fairly.

Chung also promised that no residents would face prosecution over the dispute, but last month police launched a criminal investigation into what they call the “illegal” detention of policemen and officials.

Prosecutors in My Duc District this week also ratified charges against 14 officials for wrongfully assigning military land to several families in the district between 2002 and 2013 “for benefits”.

Vietnam does not technically allow private land ownership but grants land-use rights, which confer the same rights as freehold property.

Land grievances remain the main source of concern and protests in the country. In 2012, they accounted for 70 percent of all complaints lodged against the government, according to a parliamentary report.