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Four villagers hurt as hundreds protest over cemetery project in central Vietnam

Four people were hurt in clashes with police as hundreds of mostly female protesters wrapped themselves in Vietnamese flags to rally against a cemetery and crematorium project in central Vietnam, villagers said Friday.

The protest on Thursday targeted Vinh Hang Eco-park and Cemetery, an 80-ha, 500 billion dong ($21.8 million) project in the Hung Nguyen district of central Nghe An province.

Approved by local authorities in 2017, the cemetery has encounterd strong objection by local residents due to environmental and water resource concerns.

“There was a clash among the police and local residents. One woman was seriously injured and was sent to Nghe An provincial hospital for emergency care. Two others were sent to a district hospital with less serious injuries,” local resident Phan Van Khuong told RFA Vietnamese.

“They arrested three or four people but released them on the same day,” he added.

A Facebook page titled “Hạt lúa Kẻ Gai” showed ozens of police officers in uniform knocking down protesters’ tents.

“The Commune People’s Committee sent some people to plant markers on a road where local residents put up tents [to block the project] and we all rushed up there to stop them,” Nguyen Van Ky, a resident from Phuc Dien village, told RFA.

“In response, district and commune police officers were deployed and they removed the tents and shoved us down, injuring four people,” said Ky.

The injuries were caused when police officers kicked and stomped on protesters. A fourth protester had a leg injury that did not require hospital treatment.

RFA called authorities from Nghe An province and Hung Tay commune to seek comments but no one answered the phone.

While all land in Communist-run Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation.

Translated by Anna Vu. Written by Paul Eckert.