Hero who fought forced evictions jailed and fined
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - A Court of appeal dismissed fish farmer Doan Van Vuon's demand for compensation for material and moral damages over his courageous family's fight against forced evictions by the Vietnamese government.
The court, issued yesterday by the Court of Appeals in Hai Phong (northern Vietnam), confirmed Mr Doan's five-year sentence and imposed a 23 million dong (US$ 1,090) fine.
His lawyers had asked for 30 billion dong (US$ 1.4 million) in compensation, but the court rejected what they deemed a baseless claim.
The story starring Doan Van Vuon and his family epitomises the abusive behaviour by Vietnam's central and local authorities when it comes to land and property, this in a country where virtually everything belongs to the Communist state. In fact, some 70 per cent of all such cases involve land, and the rights of individuals are neither protected nor recognised.
Many inside and outside the Asian country closely followed the case of this courageous family, its appeals and actions against Mr Duon's incarceration.
"We knew this would happen," his wife Nguyen Thi Thuong told RFA's Vietnamese Service. She could not attend the court hearing.
Vu Van Luan, vice-chairman of the Tien Lang Seafood Cultivation Association, tried to argue in court that the land eviction was illegal by "quoting law and regulations with regards to land confiscation," but "due to political matters, they ignored everything" the defence had to say.
The case is but the latest episode in a long series of confrontations between the authorities and ordinary people, as well as the Catholic Church, over the ownership of land, buildings and businesses.
In this case, the controversy revolves around 40 acres of land that Mr Duon got in concession from the government back in 1993. Over the years, thanks to his work, he turned marshland and swamps into a fish farm. However, after their investment began to pay off, the authorities decided to claim the farm in 2009.
After a long legal battle, they issued an ultimatum on 24 November 2011, telling the family to get off the land and stop its activities. Instead of accepting the fait accompli, Peter and his family decided to react.
When on 5 January 2012 a group of soldiers approached the area to carry out the expropriation order, they were "greeted" by a volley of shots, bullets and grenades. They were not meant to kill, but to stop the agents from entering the property.
No one was hurt or killed in the incident, but a few days later, police raided the site again, and arrested family members who were put on trial for "murder".
Catholics and others came out on the side of the accused, astonished by Doan Vuon's determination to defend his business.
In response to the case, Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, president of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, and Mgr Joseph Vu Van Thien, bishop of Hai Phong, began a petition, calling for the acquittal of the accused.