Pepper, coffee and fruit farms in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have been destroyed by unknown people after farmers refused to pay ‘protection money’ demanded by a group of men.
Local police said they know who brought about the destruction but they have arrested none of them.
The trouble has occurred mostly in Cu Kuin District of the province.
Police of Dray Bhang Commune said on August 7 that they have been tracing a ring of men denounced as those committing theft and sabotage.
In the last few months, farmers in Ea B’hok, Ea Ninh and Dray Bhang Communes have been concerned by repeated theft and sabotage.
L.T.M. in Kim Chau Village in Dray Bhang had dozens of her pepper bushes cut off in one night.
She said she had received an offer to ‘protect’ her farm of 1,000 pepper bushes for VND10 million (US$460) a year by a group of men, but she turned them down.
After that her husband received an SMS message warning, “No one can protect your farm if you don’t pay ‘protection money’.”
That night, 17 pepper bushes on her farm were destroyed.
Another farmer, M.S.L., was given such an offer. After refusing it, an unknown person threatened that he would have his farm ruined.
On the night of July 31, 40 pepper bushes on his farm were slashed.
Local police said they have identified the perpetrators in these cases, but have not caught them.
Even worse, a farmer named T.V.Q. in Ea Bhang Commune recently paid perpetrators VND5 million ($230) to have his farm of 500 pepper bushes protected for a year.
However, over 40 pepper bushes on his farm were damaged on the night of July 31.
He called his ‘protectors,’ but they did not answer him.
Some farmers have coped with the situation by installing electrical lines to prevent such perpetrators from entering their farms, although they know it is against the law.
Truong Van Phung, chief of the police unit in Ea B’hok, said around 15-16 cases of theft and sabotage have taken place in his locality in the past seven months.
Nguyen Dinh Hoan, chief of the police unit in Dray Bhang Commune, confirmed that a group of men have frequented the locality to ask for ‘protection money’ and damaged many farms.
The men have personal records of theft and fights and local farmers fear them, he added.
“Most farmers who have had their farms sabotaged and assets stolen didn’t report their cases to police because they feared revenge,” Hoan said.
Demanding ‘protection money’ also occurred many years ago, and local police nabbed a ring then.
Now another group has emerged, he said.
A police chief in Cu Kuin District confirmed that policemen have been deployed to trap the perpetrators.