Vietnam jails official over ‘hero’ farmer eviction
Agence France-Presse in Hanoi
A Vietnamese local government official was jailed for two and a half years Wednesday for the destruction of the home of a farmer who became a national hero for resisting eviction, state media said.
Doan Van Vuon become a symbol of rising public dissatisfaction over land rights after arming his family with homemade shotguns in an attempt to keep their fish farm east of Hanoi.
The rare act of defiance by the 50-year-old former soldier left seven policemen injured, but triggered a nationwide outpouring of support, with even Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung branding the eviction “illegal”.
Nguyen Van Khanh, who was deputy chairman of the district where the incident happened, was given 30 months in jail for destruction of property, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported on its website.
Vuon was given an unexpectedly lenient sentence of five years last Friday for attempted murder, after prosecutors admitted the eviction had been illegal and that local authorities had acted improperly.
Three relatives were sentenced to between two and five years.
Khanh is widely seen as a scapegoat and not the mastermind of the eviction. Vuon himself asked the court to give Khanh a lenient sentence when he appeared in court this week as a witness.
Four other officials, including Khanh’s boss, were given suspended sentences of between 15 and 24 months, despite Vuon’s plea for the court to give them tougher sentences.
Land is a divisive issue in communist Vietnam, where it is wholly owned by the state and rights of use are not always clear or protected.
Local officials can reclaim land for vaguely defined “public interest”, which experts say leads to widespread corruption. More than 70 per cent of all complaints lodged with authorities nationwide concern land.