Police beat reporters during Vietnam land eviction

AP News
Posted: May 08, 2012 10:37 AM
Police beat reporters during Vietnam land eviction

Police and security guards beat two Vietnamese state radio reporters who were watching them evict farmers from their land to make way for a massive privately built housing project, state-controlled media reported Tuesday.

A video earlier posted on YouTube showed police and guards beating and kicking two helmeted men during the high-profile eviction last month. The Thanh Nien newspaper reported Tuesday that the men were Nguyen Ngoc Nam, chief of political and economic news at the Radio Voice of Vietnam, and staff reporter Han Phi Long.

It said Nam was handcuffed and taken to a district prosecutor's office while Long went to local police to report the beating.

The two reporters and the national radio station have asked the provincial government for an explanation, but it has yet to respond, the newspaper said.

The reporters and provincial officials were not available for comment Tuesday.

Land rights cases have attracted increased attention in recent years as farmers have been pushed off their land to make way for projects ranging from industrial parks to luxury golf courses.

In the April 24 eviction in Hung Yen province near Hanoi, about 3,000 police and militiamen, many in full riot gear, overpowered more than 1,000 villagers, witnesses say. Authorities detained 20 villagers, and five remain in custody.

A total of 166 families were evicted from 5.8 hectares (14 acres) of land, part of 72.6 hectares (180 acres) allocated for the second phase of the housing project.

Viet Hung Co. Ltd., a private company, was awarded a contract in 2004 to develop an "Ecopark" satellite city covering 500 hectares (1,235 acres) in three villages. More than 4,000 families are to lose their farmland.

The farmers have protested periodically in Hanoi, demanding higher compensation for their land or the cancellation of the project.

State media quoted Nguyen Khac Hao, vice governor of the province, as telling a high-level government conference last week that the provincial government has handled the case properly and accusing anti-government activists of describing the incident in a bad light.

"There was a close coordination between the hostile elements from both inside and outside the country ... fake video clips were created to slander and smear the government," the Nong Nghiep newspaper quoted Hao as telling the conference.