7 arrested as 6 cops shot in northern Vietnam clash

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A man who allegedly shot six officers when his family was trying to stop police from revoking their land in the northern city of Hai Phong last week has turned himself in.

Doan Van Quy, 46, gave himself up to the police on Saturday, two days after his family's encounter with police.

By that time six members of Quy's family had already been arrested.

Initial information indicates that on January 5, Tien Lang District's People's Committee sent more than 100 officers and soldiers to the land where Quy's family was living to force them to return more than 50 hectares of aquaculture land.

Local authorities said Quy's elder brother, Doan Van Vuon, 53, refused to return the land as regulated. His right to use the land expired in 2009.

Lieutenant-colonel Dang Van Minh, representative of Hai Phong City's social crime department, said Quy and his family had made careful preparations to fight police.

After firing a shotgun, Quy poured fuel onto straw that he had spread along the only road to the house to start a fire and escape, Minh said. But because of rain, the wet straw didn't cause fires to flare up, and the self-made mines that the family put underground didn't explode either, Minh said. 

Police forces approached the house four hours later and found two cylinders, one mine and many knives inside.

Meanwhile, Quy told police that he shot two officers, while his younger brother, 43-year-old Doan Van Thoai, and his brother-in-law, 33-year-old Pham Van Thai, shot four others. He said he bought the two self-made guns from an unknown man and lost them when the boat he escaped in turned over that day.

The case

Le Van Hien, chairman of Tien Lang District's People's Committee, told Thanh Nien that Vuon was given the land to use for 14 years, and he had to submit 600 kilograms of rice to the district's budget each year in exchange. 

He was supposed to return the land in 2009, Hien said, adding that under Vietnamese law, people who were assigned land could continue using it after the regulated time under a hiring agreement with local authorities.

According to the official, since 2009, officials have asked Vuon to return the land and to apply to hire it for five or 10 years, if he wanted to continue using it. But Vuon refused the offer.

In the meantime, Thanh Nien reporters found that Vuon and other people who were having their land revoked once filed a lawsuit against the local authorities' decision with the district's People's Court.

The owners said they had invested a lot of money into the land to turn them into farms, so they would lose everything and couldn't pay their debts if the land was taken back.

However, in 2009, the court rejected the lawsuit, and asked the owners to follow the decision, which prompted them to bring the case to Hai Phong City's People's Court.

On April 9, 2010, judge Ngo Van Anh from the city's People's Court held a meeting to mediate between the district's authorities and the owners.

At the meeting, judge Anh made a minute that stated that representative of Tien Lang's People's Committee, Pham Xuan Hoa, head of the Division of Natural Resources and Environment, made an agreement with the owners: If the owners canceled the lawsuit, the district's authorities would let them continue hiring the lands for farming.

After the owners withdrew the lawsuit on Oct. 24 2010, Anh suspended the case, Thanh Nien reporters found.

Later, the district's authorities kept asking the owners to return their land as ordered by the district's People's Committee at the first trial. They cited that the appeal trial by the city's People's Court had suspended the case. 

Because the owners refused to follow the order, the authorities exerted force.

Nguyen Thi Mai, head of Hai Phong City's People's Court, told the press that the minute was a basis for the court to suspend the case, so the first trial's verdict would take effect. But she also said that the minute misled the owners into thinking that the agreement was the court's verdict. 

The case is being investigated further.

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