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Villagers holding police captive seek dialogue with Hanoi authorities

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 13:53 GMT+7

Villagers of a commune in outer Hanoi, who have held law enforcement officers hostage since last weekend, are looking forward to a dialogue with authorities as soon as possible in order to resolve the escalating land dispute.

The dispute revolves around a large plot zoned for military purposes, which Hanoi authorities say has been illegally occupied by residents of Hoanh village in Dong Tam Commune, My Duc District, 30km from the center of Hanoi.

Thirty-eight people, including My Duc officials and police officers, have been held captive by local residents after they attempted to stop a protest in the village on Saturday.

As of the end of Tuesday, 15 of the ‘hostages,’ all members of a flying police squad, had been freed by villagers, while three others had managed to escape by themselves.

Twenty others remain captive, with villagers claiming that their ‘hostages’ are being treated well.

In return, Hanoi authorities have released three of the four villagers they had arrested on a ‘disturbing social order’ charge. The remaining villager, 82-year-old Le Dinh Kinh, is receiving medical treatment in Hanoi due to health problems.

The entire Hoanh village has been subject to heightened security, with makeshift barricades and obstacles, including mattresses, wood logs and tires, placed across the main entrance to the neighborhood, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported from the scene late on Tuesday.

Several ‘checkpoints’ have also been established, with strangers banned from entering the village. Local journalists also have been denied entry after attempting to report from the scene.

Tuoi Tre managed to reach some of the villagers and was told that the 20 officials and police officers are being kept at the village’s culture house.

“We are cooking and supplying decent meals for them every day,” one villager said, “there is no such thing as us beating them or threatening to burn them with fuel as claimed online.”

One of the police officers freed on Tuesday confirmed to Tuoi Tre that they had been well treated by the villagers during their time as hostages.

Most of the villagers interviewed by Tuoi Tre said that they only wanted the opportunity to speak with Hanoi authorities to resolve the land dispute.

The land in dispute is a 50 hectare area the defense ministry has allocated to military-run Viettel Group to develop a defense project known as Project A1.

Forty-six hectares of the land lies within Dong Tam territory, which has been illegally occupied by some residents of the commune’s Hoanh village.

Although the Hanoi administration and the defense ministry claim that the 46-hectare land plot in Dong Tam is military-zoned land, some local residents still staged a protest when Viettel began reclaiming the area for site clearance to begin construction for Project A1 in 2016.

Fourteen households in Dong Tam were occupying the land at the time Viettel took over the area.

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