Nine police officers were injured and several officials’ property was destroyed by an angry mob of hundreds of people protesting a cemetery project in the north-central province of Ha Tinh for two days.
A group of six officers came to the house of Truong Van Truong, 30, in Bac Son Commune, Thach Ha District, to take him into custody on charges of "disturbing public security" on Thursday.
Truong was suspected of stoning many local officials’ houses in recent months in protest of a project to build a cemetery in Bac Son, which has also faced widespread public criticism.
However, local people rushed to the site to protest the arrest.
Four of the officers were abducted and beaten.
More than 100 officers were mobilized to the site to rescue the kidnapped officers, but continued to face the mob.
Tran Quoc Toan, chief of Ha Tinh Police’s mobile force, told Thanh Nien that five other officers were injured by rocks thrown by people during the rescue mission.
All the injured officers were hospitalized.
In Vietnam, all land is owned by the state, but because land-usage rights are not always clear or protected, land disputes have become an increasingly contentious issue in the country.
At least 70 percent of all complaints lodged with authorities nationwide concern land.
Later that day local people came to the headquarters of the Bac Son People’s Committee, the local government, and burned 11 motorbikes that local officials had parked there, Nguyen Hoai Viet, head of the Thach Ha District police division said.
After that they surrounded the houses of Duong Van Tu, chief of the commune's Party Unit, Tran Ba Hoanh, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee, Nguyen Khac Son, chief of the commune’s police division, and Duong Van Thong, who is in charge of surveying lands.
They threw stones and ransacked Son’s house, burning a motorbike parked there, before leaving early Friday morning.
Viet said the current situation in Bac Son was very “tense,” and that local officials did not dare leave their houses for fear of being assaulted.
Doan Tien Dat, spokesman of Thach Ha District People’s Committee, told Thanh Nien that local people protested the cemetery project due to "misunderstanding".
He said they believed that the project would block a road connecting the commune and the National Road 15A.
Ho Duy Thanh, director of Ha Tinh Center for Land Fund Development – an agency tasked with managing local land and clearing sites for public projects, said the cemetery project is still being planned.
Under local authorities’ plan, 28.8 hectares (71.2 acres) of land, including eight hectares of agricultural land, will be revoked for the project.
According to Bui Dinh Quang, vice director of the Ha Tinh police department, they are trying to stabilize the situation in Bac Son while investigating the assault on police officers.
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