Vietnamese farmers protest land confiscation

Hundreds of Vietnamese farmers gathered together for a rare protest against the government's confiscation fo their land. the protesters say that if they lose the land they will lose their lives, AP reports.

The farmers from Hung Yen province, many barefoot and wearing weathered conical hats, were angered by the developer, Viet Hung Co. Ltd., which originally offered to pay them 19.5 million dong (US$1,200) for 360 square meters (3,875 square feet) of land without negotiation.

"It was announced on the loud speaker that this private company is taking that land to build a new residential area," said farmer Nguyen Van An, 40. "The villagers do not want to sell their land. They would be unemployed and go hungry."

But an official with the district People's Committee said the project was approved by the prime minister two years ago and awarded to Viet Hung, a group of private companies.

The residential area would cover 500 hectares (1,235 acres) in three villages about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Hanoi, affecting more than 4,000 families, said the official, Nguyen Van Anh.

More than 1,000 families have received compensation, while others demanded higher payments earlier this year after two government officials were quoted by state-controlled media as saying the farmers should be paid market value for their land, Anh said.

She said the investors recently agreed to raise the compensation to 24 million dong (US$1,500; ─1,1200), and also offered farmers the option of buying 20 square meters (215 square feet) of adjacent land for every 360 square meters (3875 square feet) taken. But many villagers demanded more money or refused to sell altogether.

"We've done everything right," Anh said. "The area was planned for a new residential area by the provincial government, and the project was approved by the prime minister and relevant government agencies."

Farmers from the three affected villages met Tuesday with government officials to try to resolve the problem. Those gathered outside did not chant or wave signs but instead sat quietly.

Large demonstrations are rare in Vietnam, where the authorities typically break up gatherings, although a few farmers have in the past rallied outside government buildings to demand fair compensation for seized land.