The farmers, mostly older people and women, stood outside the National Assembly office in the city centre, holding signs saying: "EcoPark... robbed land from the people," an AFP reporter saw.

EcoPark is the name of a satellite city being developed by private company Viet Hung Co. Ltd., which the farmers say has been granted some 500 hectares (1,235 acres) of their land in Hung Yen province without proper negotiations.

The Viet Hung company has been trying since 2004 to build the new city on the land, which is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) southeast of Hanoi, for a total investment estimated at around 250 million dollars.

After a series of protests staged by the farmers in 2006, the project was temporarily suspended, but the development has since restarted, the farmers claim.

"They took around 2,100 square metres of my family's land for road construction. We do not accept the compensation they offered. We don't want to lose our land for this project," Vu Thi Thu, 63, from Hung Yen province, told AFP.

"We are here to ask for intervention from the government. We want our agricultural land back -- for our children," Thu said, adding that there were seven people in her family and they could not afford to buy new land elsewhere.

Land disputes with local authorities are an increasingly contentious issue in communist Vietnam, where all land is owned by the state and usage rights are not always clear or protected.

The government says it provides adequate compensation for those being relocated, but corruption among local officials alleged to have siphoned off the allocated funds for personal use has led to increased unrest.

In a high-profile recent incident in the port city of Hai Phong, a farmer injured six police officers as he resisted a forced eviction which Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung later declared illegal.

Dung has vowed to punish corrupt local officials in that case and called on local officials nationwide to "actively reconsider" their land management policies.

Agence France Presse - February 21, 2012