Company thugs slash landowner with machete

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Tensions between local farmers and a company stealing their land heightened Monday when a group of the company's guards hacked a landowner with a machete and beat him within an inch of his life.

Pham Van Muon went to the hospital in critical condition with severe blood-loss after the attack.

Police in the northern province of Quang Ninh arrested one of the guards for slashing Muon when he spoke out against the Dong Trieu Aquaculture Breeding Joint Stock Company's illegal seizure of his land.

The guard arrested in the incident, Pham Van Khoi, 36, was employed by Dong Trieu to guard land that the company plans to use on a major project. Muon's land is slated to be used in the project.

But local authorities confirmed that they had not granted the company the land yet. Still, the company is using local residents' fields and has even fenced off parts of their land. Some of Muon's land has been illegally appropriated by the company.

Local eyewitness Nguyen Thi Sen, 40, said Muon was attacked when he asked a group of guards strolling the area near his fields: "How much do they pay you to be so zealous?"

Sen said that in addition to Khoi's machete attack, five or six other guards rushed Muon and beat him with fists and kicks.

They were about to take the incapacitated Muon to the company when police from Hoang Que Commune, Dong Trieu District, appeared on the scene.

Police have also detained Nguyen Van Hoa, head guard at the site.

Dong Trieu has given Muon's family VND50 million (US$2,600) for hospital fees.

Since February, the ground-clearance process has brought in many conflicts between the company and local residents, said Nguyen Thi Huan, chairman of Dong Trieu District People's Committee.

The district authorities have sent a note to the company reminding it that the land has not been granted yet.

Huan said it was illegal that the company had already barred residents from their fields.

Dong Trieu company started work on the 20-hectare aquaculture breeding project in 2006, soon after Quang Ninh People's Committee officially zoned the project area.

But althought the company has not been officially granted the land, nor has it finished paying compensation to local residents, it has already begun digging up their paddy fields and breaking down their irrigation systems.

Dong Trieu deputy director Pham Cong Tanh once brought more than ten people armed with electric clubs to remove residents' plants' to clear way for the work.

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