The Hanoi administration will launch a comprehensive inspection into land-related issues in an outlying commune where local residents have held dozens of officials and police officers captive since last weekend, the capital chairman said Thursday.
Hanoi chairman Nguyen Duc Chung was scheduled to meet with locals in Dong Tam Commune, My Duc District, about 30km from the capital’s center, on Thursday, but disputes over the meeting’s location left Chung to work with district officials only.
Chung had requested the Dong Tam residents meet in the district’s hall, whereas the villagers insisted the chairman meet with them in the commune itself.
Dong Tam made national headlines last weekend after local residents took 38 people hostage, including My Duc officials and Hanoi police, last Saturday as part of their protest over a land-dispute.
By Tuesday evening, 15 of the hostages, all members of a flying police squad, had been freed by villagers, while three others had managed to escape.
Twenty still remain captive and the villagers claim the hostages are being treated well.
The Hanoi chairman said a thorough inspection will be launched within the next 45 days and authorities are willing to listen to complaints and feedback from local residents in order to resolve situation fairly and promptly.
After meeting with My Duc leaders on Thursday, Chung demanded that they “tell people in Dong Tam that Hanoi leaders, including myself, would like to hold a direct dialogue as soon as possible.”
Chung said he could meet the villagers on Friday or Saturday this week and called on My Duc residents to release the remaining 20 officers and police.
A makeshift obstacle is seen on the entry to the village in Dong Tam
Agriculture or military land?
The land in dispute is a 50 hectare area the defense ministry has allocated to military-run Viettel Group for the development of a defense project known as Project A1. Forty-six hectares of that land lies within Dong Tam territory.
Local villagers have been vehemently protesting Viettel’s reclamation of the land, believing that the area is zoned for agricultural, rather than military, purposes.
“Dong Tam residents want authorities to clarify whether that land plot is for agriculture or military activities,” Bui Viet Hieu, a 75-year-old Dong Tam resident, said.
Hanoi chairman Chung has requested that Viettel cease construction on the disputed land until the conclusion of an inspection into the matter.
“The inspection will be thoughtfully carried out and any individual or organization found violating the law will be strictly sanctioned,” Chung said in an announcement warmly welcomed by Dong Tam residents.
“This is what we have been waiting for,” Bui Van Nhac, 80, a senior villager, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Nguyen Manh Tien, a Party leader in the commune, says local residents are unconvinced that the controversial piece of land is military-zoned.
“Debunking this myth is what the residents are looking forward to,” he said.
As for the promised dialogue with Dong Tam residents, Nhac said villagers still insist that the meeting take place in the commune’s hall.
“We will receive the chairman at the village entry and ensure his safety,” the senior villager said.