A community leader killed last week during a violent clash over a land dispute in Hanoi’s Dong Tam commune was laid to rest on Monday, surrounded by mourning villagers, state and social media said on Jan. 13.
Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was killed on Jan. 9 as farmers at Dong Tam threw grenades and petrol bombs at police in the latest flare-up of the long-running dispute over a military airport construction site near the capital.
Three police officers were also killed during the clash, and another person injured, state media said last week.
Kinh’s cause of death has not been confirmed, though a woman who escaped last week’s clash told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that police had destroyed Kinh’s house after deploying explosive charges and pepper spray, and had arrested several of the 20 or so people found inside.
Security forces have now surrounded Dong Tam commune, controlling access and cutting off internet service to the area, social media sources said.
In a video clip distributed widely on social media, Le Dinh Kinh’s wife Du Thi Thanh said on Monday that she had been beaten by police during questioning, and had been forced to admit that villagers had used grenades during their clash with police.
Meanwhile, she has received no information on the condition or whereabouts of her four sons Le Dinh Uy, Le Dinh Cong, Le Dinh Doanh, and Le Dinh Chuc, she said.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday, local activist La Viet Dung said there were two reasons for authorities’ harsh treatment of Du Thi Thanh.
“First, the government wanted to establish that Le Dinh Kinh’s family really had used grenades, petrol bombs, and other weapons to attack the police,” he said. “And second, they wanted to take revenge by beating her so savagely.”
Tensions over the Mieu Mon military airport in Dong Tam, 25 miles south of Hanoi, have simmered for nearly three years.
In April 2017, police arrested several farmers for allegedly causing “social unrest” during a clash between authorities and Dong Tam residents over the 47 hectares of commune land taken by the government for military use.
Other farmers responded to the arrests by detaining 38 police officers and local officials, threatening to kill them if police moved against them,
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to those whose land is taken.
Separately, a Facebook user in Can Tho City named Chung Hoang Chuong—also known as Lucky Chuong—was arrested on Jan. 10 for posting news of the Dong Tam clash, with police sources saying he had previously posted 16 stories online since 2018 with content “causing severe harm” to the interests of the State.
In another sign of the sensitivity of the Dong Tam dispute, YouTube issued a “strike” against the RFA Vietnamese channel on the social media platform on Saturday, citing unspecified violations of “community guidelines,” meaning that it would be unable to upload or livestream material for seven days.
The “strike” was against a playlist that carries a daily news webcast that had included news last week about the unrest related to the Dong Tam dispute. RFA appealed that decision and by Monday it was able to upload content again on YouTube.
Google, of which YouTube is a subsidiary, did not respond to a request Sunday for comment from RFA on whether the “strike” issued against RFA was in response to demands from the government of Vietnam to take down content it viewed as unfavorable.
A state-run newspaper, Hanoi Moi, on Saturday had cited a Ministry of Information official saying that Google and YouTube had been responsive to its requests to take down “fake” and inciteful content in the past two weeks.
The Hanoi Moi story was taken down by Sunday, without explanation.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.