Earlier this week, a deadly clash occurred between residents and soldiers in a suburb of Vietnam’s capital over a long-running land issue. The development highlighted the Southeast Asian state’s wider problem of land disputes that has periodically resulted in such incidents over the years.

Land disputes are common in Vietnam because the government does not recognize private land ownership. Land can be taken for infrastructure and investment projects and disagreements over compensation often lead to prolonged disputes.

This week, another instance of this was in the headlines. Residents of a Hanoi suburb used grenades, firebombs and spears Thursday in an attempt to stop soldiers from building a wall around a military airport on land they say is private, leaving three police and a villager dead, officials said.

This week’s confrontation occurred in Dong Tam, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement. It said police arrested several people involved in the “riot” and would launch an investigation.

“The situation in Dong Tam village is under control. The authorities will continue their presence at the scene to keep order,” said General To An Xo, spokesman of the ministry.

A clash over the same land dispute two years ago, which was tied to a long-running dispute over Mieu Mon military airport construction site, resulted in villagers holding more than 30 police hostage for a week.

Radio Free Asia reported that the current dispute was related to that incident as local authorities began building a fence for the military airport a week prior to that, thereby causing discontent among some residents. RFA also noted that a Vietnamese state news website had highlighted the seriousness of the issue by mentioning that it was “the first time in years that policemen have been killed” in a land dispute in Vietnam, even though these disputes may not be uncommon.

The Associated Press - January 10, 2020