Hung Yen police apologize to VOV reporters, pay reparation for assault during land eviction

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Police in the northern province of Hung Yen have apologized and compensated two reporters from Voice of Vietnam radio who were assaulted by officers while watching farmers being evicted from their land to make way for a massive private housing project last year.

Senior Lieutenant Dang Quang Hoang of the Van Giang District police apologized to Nguyen Ngoc Nam, the chief of VOV's daily news department, and Han Phi Long, a staff reporter, at a meeting chaired by Nguyen Trong Thanh, deputy chief of the provincial police department's investigation division, and Do Ngoc Cu, deputy chief of the Van Giang police.

Apart from the oral apology, Hoang, who led the group of officers in the assault, also paid an undisclosed sum of money as compensation to the duo for damage to their health and honor and mental distress.

Hoang was earlier sacked as deputy chief of a district police team.

Nguyen Minh Tien of the provincial prosecutor's office, who attended the meeting, said the two sides agreed to drop the case following the apology.

On April 24 last year Nam and Long were sent to Hung Yen near Hanoi to report on the eviction of 166 families in Xuan Quan Commune in Van Giang.

When Long stood watching the action, more than a dozen officers and guards ran up to him and began to kick and hit him with batons and sticks. His face was bloodied and swollen, his lips were torn, and he got chest pain.

Nam rushed to the spot, screaming repeatedly: "Stop, we're journalists!"

But the men did not stop, instead twisting his arms and continuing the assault.

Long later told Nong Thon Ngay Nay newspaper that he and Nam were lucky to be wearing helmets since they were hit repeatedly on the head with batons.

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Nam was handcuffed and taken to the district prosecutor's office. Long went to a local police station to report the assault.

According to online newspaper VnExpress, the eviction, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., was ordered by the provincial government.

Authorities had dispatched 1,000 police officers and militiamen to evict the families living on 5.8 hectares of land.

The lands were part of a larger area allocated for developing a satellite city called Ecopark.

Viet Hung Urban Development and Investment Joint Stock Company, a private company, was awarded the contract to build Ecopark in 2004.

Ecopark, supposedly the largest urban project in northern Vietnam, is expected to cost US$6 billion.

In all more than 4,000 farmers will lose their lands.

For eight years Hung Yen authorities have been unable to take over the lands because they have not reached an agreement with the owners over compensation.

The farmers have protested periodically in Hanoi, demanding higher compensation or cancelation of the project, AP reported.

A provincial news website reported that they put up two tents near the site a day before the eviction, and around 300 of them gathered there with hoes, shovels, knives, sickles, sticks, and stones "to resist the eviction."

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