A court in the north-central province of Ha Tinh sentenced five people to jail on Tuesday for their roles in a mob attack prompted by seething communal opposition to a planned government project.
Nine police officers were injured in the attack, which occurred in April.
Truong Van Truong, 30, got two-and-a-half years. Tran Hau Thuan, 42, got two years and two months. Nguyen Van Tu, 36, and Bui Dinh Xuan, 54, received 18 and 15 months, respectively.
The lone woman being tried for the crime, Nguyen Thi Thuan, 24, was sentenced to two years and four months.
All the five were charged with “disturbing public security.”
According to the indictment, between March 13 and April 10, the crew of five and gathered to protest the planned Vinh Hang cemetery project in Thach Ha District’s Bac Son Commune accompanied by others.
They threw rocks at several local officials’ homes and insulted police officers.
On April 10, six police officers visited Truong’s house to take him into custody for "disturbing public security.”
The man and his family members resisted arrest.
Around 300 locals rushed to the scene to protest Truong's arrest. In the chaos that ensued, the protesters abducted and beat four police officers.
More than 100 officers were mobilized to the site to rescue the kidnapped officers, but continued to face attacks from the mob. Five other officers were injured by rocks thrown during the rescue effort.
Later that day, locals amassed around the headquarters of the Bac Son People’s Committee and burned 11 motorbikes that local officials had parked there.
The group then surrounded the homes of several local officials and hurled stones into them. They were also accused of vandalizing the home of Nguyen Khac Son, chief of the commune’s police, and burning his motorbike.
After the trial on Tuesday, Truong Viet Hung, deputy police chief of Thach Ha District, told Thanh Nien that local police sought charges against 21 people involved in the attack.
Five more people will be tried on September 25 for “illegally abducting police officers,” he said.
Another trial will be opened soon for those charged with “damaging property,” he added.
Many Bac Son residents told the press that they had filed numerous petitions with local authorities in the months preceding the riots, asking them to suspend the Vinh Hang cemetery project.
They said their pleas were all ignored.
They feared that the project would consume the limited communal farmland, leaving many households without a place to farm or live. They also said that once Vinh Hang goes into operation, it will block a road that links the commune and National Highway 15A.
Local authorities planned to use 28.8 hectares (71.2 acres) of communal land, including eight hectares of agricultural land, for the cemetery for deceased residents of Ha Tinh and other adjacent localities.