UPDATED at 1:15 P.M. EST on 2019-11-13
A group of police officers in the Vietnamese capital protested Monday, claiming that a real estate developer took their money 17 years ago, but failed to build the homes they were promised in return.
The houses were supposed to have been built by AnThinh Investment & Construction Limited Company in Hanoi’s Dong Anh district on a 2.2 hectare (5.43 acre) plot of land set aside for that purpose.
A three-minute video clip of the protest shows the police officers holding red banners saying “Long live the Vietnamese Communist Party,” “Demolish illegal construction on [police] land,” and “Corruption: We’ve paid more than 100 million dong (U.S. $4,309) over 17 years, but still no houses.”
Protests over land disputes are quite common in Vietnam, but the police are usually there to break up the demonstrations instead of protesting themselves.
Local activists noted the irony.
“It is the police who always say that land petitioners who stage demonstrations are in violation of the law because they disrupt social order,” Trinh Ba Phuong told RFA’s Vietnamese Service Tuesday.
The land petitioner from crosstown Duong Noi district said that the police often rely on the pretext that since no laws on such demonstrations exist, they have free reign to break them up.
“Now that the policemen see that there is no other way to fix their problem, they have to resort to demonstrations,” he said.
Local bloggers also commented that the victims in land disputes now also include these “victimized policemen.”
In 2016, local newspaper Phap Luat reported that the police overwhelmingly supported the project. They sold their houses and took loans from local banks and other providers to pay into the housing scheme, but as of that time 14 years had passed without any further development.
The authorities also had not done anything of substance to help the victimized policemen so they were living in limbo, according to that report.
The dispute has its origins in 2002, when the Dong Anh police department asked for the plot of land from the Dong Anh Commercial Center to be designated for that purpose.
The police then created a council for housing allocation to internally select 198 officers who met the criteria to get the houses.
The Dong Anh police department said that 100 of the officers involved in the dispute are retired and the department has no relation to the protests.
According to Phap Luat that council collected 125 million dong (U.S. $5,386) from every officer, or 24 billion dong (U.S. $1,034,157) in total, paid in six installments between 2002 and 2006. Even though many of the officers are in debt, the project hasn’t moved forward since.
AnThinh has since been accused of tax evasion, fraud, abuse of credit, and appropriation of donations, in violation with local laws.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.