Authorities in northern Vietnam’s Ha Nam province have blocked off irrigation canals and access points to a rice field at the center of a land dispute between villagers and a company with plans to turn the site into an industrial park, according to residents.
On the morning of June 25, more than 100 riot police and other officers led a convoy of excavators, bulldozers, and trucks to requisition a field in Ly Nhan district’s Chuong village, despite ongoing compensation negotiations between residents and the Thai Ha Urban And Industrial Park Investment Joint Stock Company.
Video of the eviction, which occurred shortly after the sowing of seeds for a new crop of rice, shows villagers engaging in a scuffle with authorities that resulted in at least one 70-year-old woman being hospitalized for injuries.
The rice field is part of an area of 100 hectares (250 acres) of land that was approved for development of the first phase of the Thai Ha Industrial Park by Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung in November 2019. The area includes parts of land farmed by some 500 households in Ly Nhan’s communes of Bac Ly, Chan Ly, and Tran Hung Dao.
Chuong villagers claim that the dispute began when Thai Ha sought 15 hectares (37 acres) of land in addition to the 100 hectares approved by Trinh. Residents, suspecting the land would be repurposed for housing, demanded an increase in compensation.
“In some nearby communes, after receiving land, investors did not build industrial parks. Instead they divided the land into plots to sell for housing,” a Chuong villager who gave his name as Mr. T told RFA.
“Because the information for this project is so vague, we became suspicious.”
The total area of the Thai Ha Industrial Park project is currently listed as 100 hectares on the website of the Ha Nam Industrial Park Management Board.
Multiple attempts by RFA to contact the investor went unanswered and Tran Xuan Duong, Vice Chairman of the Ha Nam People’s Committee, declined an interview request.
Low compensation offer
Residents of Chuong village told RFA they were offered compensation of 73 million Vietnamese dong (U.S. $3,175) for each “sao” (360 square-meters) of land. Among the 500 households whose land is subject to requisition, more than 300 households accepted the offer and received compensation, while the remainder held out for more money, citing market prices.
In Vietnam, a sao can fetch anywhere from 250 to 300 million dong (U.S. $10,830 to $15,165), or three to four times higher than the rate offered by the investor.
A villager, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity, said farming is the only means by which to earn a living for many of the families whose land is subject to the requisition.
“It’s OK to build industrial parks here ‘for the sake of the country’s development,’ but affected households should be given the opportunity to negotiate compensation prices,” the villager said.
“What will live on if 100 percent of our farmland is repurposed?”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.