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Vietnamese land-rights protesters attacked by plainclothes thugs

Vietnamese land-rights protesters attacked by plainclothes thugsLand-rights petitioners are assaulted by unidentified attackers after raising protest banners in Quang Nam province’s Dien Ban Town, March 5, 2022.

More than 100 Vietnamese villagers demanding title to their land were attacked and beaten on Saturday by assailants wearing civilian clothes while police looked on and refused to intervene, according to local sources.

The attack in Dien Ban town in central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province came after petitioners set up tents and raised banners in front of the town’s People’s Committee headquarters, asking for their right to land for which they paid five years ago, sources said.

Roads leading to Dien Ban had already been blocked to prevent access to the town center when protesters arrived, a petitioner named Nguyen Thi Thanh Tam told RFA on Monday.

“However, a large number of us managed to push our way through and reached the place where we raised our banners and set up mats and blankets, planning to stay there till today.”

A group of around 30 men wearing face masks, helmets and civilian clothes then arrived and attacked the group, beating petitioners including children and elderly women, Tam said.

“They even sprayed us with fire extinguishers and took away our tents, illegally detaining protesters and taking them to a nearby police station,” she added.

Traffic police present at the scene did nothing to prevent the assault, Tam said, noting that the unidentified attackers appeared to be working in coordination with local authorities to attack and disperse the protest.

“After all, the roads to the town center had been cordoned off, so how could they get to where we were?” she asked.

Thugs associated with the police have frequently been used by Vietnamese authorities in the past to break up land-rights protests or attack political dissidents or members of unsanctioned religious groups, sources say.

Saturday’s protest was the latest attempt by petitioners to secure title to land lots purchased from the Bach Dat An Stock Company, which accepted villagers’ payments for the land but have yet to acknowledge ownership, sources say.

A March 5 report by state-owned newspaper Lao Dong (Labor) said that petitioners had set up tents and raised banners in front of the People’s Committee headquarters, but had taken down the tents themselves and dispersed quietly on their own.

No mention of the assault on protesters was made in the article, which quoted the committee’s deputy chairman.

Calls seeking comment from Dien Ban Town Party Chief Dan Huu Lien and Village Chairman Tran Uc were not picked up this week.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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