20 arrested in another violent land eviction

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Twenty residents were detained and two police officers injured when a forced land eviction in the northern province of Hung Yen turned violent Tuesday.

Some 500 police officials were sent to aid the land seizure in the province's Van Giang District. The eviction was to clear land for the construction of a commercial center.

Hundreds of local residents attempted to prevent the eviction and some people threw objects, causing minor injuries to two policemen.

"The provincial police have temporarily detained 20 people, seizing many bags of bricks and stones and gasoline bottles," said Bui Huy Thanh, a spokesman of the Hung Yen People's Committee.

Thanh said police were investigating to identify instigators of the opposition.

On Tuesday afternoon, Thanh said the eviction was completed and the land had been assigned to the investor as planned.

The Van Giang Ecopark Trading and Service Center project was approved by the prime minister in 2003 and the Viet Hung Investment and Urban Development Company was chosen as the investor.

The project will be constructed on an area of nearly 500 hectares (1,235 acres) overlapping Xuan Quan, Phung Cong and Cuu Cao communes in Van Giang District.

Thanh said 1,554 of the total 1,720 households affected by the project had agreed with the compensation offered. They have already handed over 132.45 hectares.

The latest eviction involved 166 households on 5.8 hectares.

The residents have complained about the project since 2004 and Thanh said they have demanded higher compensation since the project began because their land is located nearer to Hanoi.

Some of the residents have questioned the legality of the project and some requested it be halted, Thanh said.

On Tuesday evening, following the eviction, many residents in Xuan Quan Commune remained at the site, which used to be fields for ornamental plant seedlings, Tuoi Tre reported. There, they gathered and complained that the compensation rates were too low.

One resident said the rate had been raised to VND48 million (US$2,307) per sao (one tenth of a hectare) from an initial VND19 million.

Thanh said latest compensation rate was the highest level ever applied in the province.

"Government inspectors had met with the residents previously. The residents proposed that the project be canceled but they did not complain about the compensation rate. Such a proposal cannot be accepted," he said.

The protest followed an incident in January in which farmers from Hai Phong City opposed police with homemade guns and land mines in an attempt to stop local officials from revoking their land.

In February, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung publicly criticized local authorities for their handling of the case and said the evection was illegal.

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