Vietnam police admit officers assaulted reporters covering land eviction

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Police in the northern province of Hung Yen Thursday admitted to attacking two reporters from Voice of Vietnam radio who were watching farmers being evicted from their land to make way for a massive private housing project.

At a meeting with VOV officials in Hanoi, Major General Tran Huy Ngan, director of Hung Yen Province Police Department, admitted that some unidentified officers and security guards had beaten up Nguyen Ngoc Nam, 42, the chief of VOV's daily news department, and Han Phi Long, 33, a staff reporter, in Van Giang District on April 24.

They were there to report on the eviction of 166 families in Xuan Quan Commune, and were watching when their attackers ran up to them and began to kick Long and hit him with batons and sticks.

When Nam tried to tell them they were reporters, the officers did not stop and began to assault him too.

The attack was filmed by someone and posted on the internet. Long and Nam told the media they were the two men in the clip, prompting VOV to demand an explanation from the Hung Yen police.

At the meeting, Ngan said the assault was "unexpected" and "unfortunate" but hoped the two victims would forgive their attackers.

The Ministry of Public Security earlier ordered the police to investigate the case.

VOV deputy director Vu Hai called on them to identify and punish the officers and security guards involved in the attacks.

Pham Quoc Toan, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Journalists Association, told Thanh Nien the assault has sparked outrage among journalists.

"It badly affects the image of police officers and Vietnam," he said.

The association is waiting for an explanation from Hung Yen authorities, he added.

The land eviction in Van Giang was ordered by the provincial government, which dispatched 1,000 police officers and militiamen to evict the families from 5.8 hectares of land to make way for an urban project called Ecopark.

Viet Hung Urban Development and Investment Joint Stock Company was awarded the contract in 2004 for what, at US$6 billion, is thought to be the largest urban project in northern Vietnam.

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 agreement with the owners over compensation.

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

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