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Two Vietnam villagers complete jail terms for deadly 2020 raid in land dispute

Two villagers who were jailed for “resisting officials on duty” during a deadly January 2020 police raid over a tense land dispute in northern Vietnam completed their nearly 30-month sentences and were released on June 9, one of the freed men said Monday.

Bui Van Tuan and Trinh Van Hai were part of an initial group of eight residents of Hoanh hamlet in Dong Tam commune, about 25 miles south of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi who were arrested following a deadly clash between residents and police on Jan. 9, 2020 that left three officers and the village elder dead.

On that day, about 3,000 officers intervened in a long-running dispute between villagers and developers over construction of a nearby military airport on nearly 150 acres of agricultural land they used.

Police raided the homes of the residents, including that of village elder Le Dinh Kinh, shooting dead the octogenarian in his bedroom during the early morning attack.

Kinh’s sons, Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, were sentenced to death on Sept. 14, 2020, in connection with the deaths of three police officers who were killed in the clash.

After his release, Tuan told RFA on Monday that his health was fine and he had not been treated badly in prison.

Tuan also said that after his unsuccessful appeal trial, authorities sent him to Thanh Phong Detention Center in Thanh Hoa province, where he performed forced labor.

Hai, who was held at Detention Center No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province, was released on the same day, but RFA could not reach his relatives for comment.

Four other villagers are serving jail terms of 12 years to life on murder charges, while eight others are serving prison terms of 30 months to five years for “resisting officers on official duty.”

Another 15 people were also charged with resisting officers, but received probation.

Following the deadly clash, the My Duc district government built a fence around the disputed 59 hectares (146 acres) of land in Dong Senh, and the military built a high wall separating its land from the disputed land, a villager said at that time.

International organizations have called on the Vietnamese government to conduct an independent and transparent investigation of the Dong Tam incident.

In an earlier flare-up of the Dong Tam dispute, farmers detained 38 police officers and local officials during a weeklong standoff in April 2017.

Three months later, the Hanoi Inspectorate rejected the farmer’s claims that 47 hectares (116 acres) of their farmland was seized for the military-run Viettel Group — Vietnam’s largest mobile phone operator — without adequate compensation.

Though all land in Vietnam is owned by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint with residents, who have accused the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate developments and of paying insufficient compensation for their losses.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.