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Eviction victims take fight to Hanoi

HO CHI MINH CITY (UCAN): Representatives acting for more than 100 households in c, Vietnam, who claim their land was illegally seized last month by city authorities, this presented their petition to the Government Inspectorate Committee on Receiving Citizens Complaints in Hanoi in late February.
 
The victims of the alleged land-grab are demanding the government punish local officials and that land seized be returned.
 
Their representatives said the victims have owned and cultivated vegetables on a five-hectare piece of land called Loc Hung garden in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Binh district, given to them by the local Church after they moved from northern provinces in 1954.
 
They also said they paid taxes to the local government and have papers recognising their right to utilise the land. However, petitions for local authorities to legally recognise the land as theirs have been ignored for 20 years.
 
In January, city authorities destroyed their homes and threw them off the land without any official notice (Sunday Examiner, January 20).
 
The representatives demanded that the central government order Ho Chi Minh City authorities to return the land.
 
In a letter to city officials, Nguyen Hong Diep, head of the complaints committee, urged Ho Chi Minh City authorities “to meet and hold a dialogue with the victims and do all they can to address their complaints.”
 
He also called on the city officials to inform the committee on the results of the talks.
 
Lawyers who have offered legal assistance to the victims were pessimistic over whether talks would take place. They accused city officials of not respecting people’s rights and igoring many previous requests to hold talks. They added that complaints were ignored and threats were used to deter the victims from suing the government.
 
In a statement in late February, the lawyers said, “Despite this, 94 of the households are determined to sue the government. We call on city leaders to obey the laws and talk to the people to deal with their complaints.” 
 
They also called on police to prosecute and punish officials who “disregarded the laws” and caused financial losses and emotional damage to the households.
 
Since their eviction in early January, the victims have gathered daily to pray at a local Marian statue and prevented anyone else from erecting structures on the land.

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