Police arrest 7 farmers in land use dispute in Vietnamese highlands — H Talk Asia

In the recent standoff over land use rights in Vietnam, police arrested seven residents in the central highlands for trying to stop men from chopping down a farmer’s coffee and durian trees during a contract dispute, residents said.

The five men had been sent to cut down the trees because the farmer, identified as Nguyen Thanh Giang, had not given the amount of coffee beans to the Thang Loi Coffee Joint Stock Co., the company he leased the land from , which was specified in his contract.

Since 2019, Giang had refused to sell beans due to bad weather and a sharp fall in coffee prices. After that, a court ordered him to pay the company almost 5,200 kilograms of fresh beans as rent for the 2018/19 season. The farmer appealed, but the Court of Appeal upheld the earlier decision.

In Vietnam, citizens must obtain permission from the government to use land. When the state gives away land to state-owned companies or other companies, the local farmers are at their mercy.

After hearing the men sawing the trees in the dark early Monday, neighbors helped Giang evict them. They arrested three of the men and held them near Hoa Dong township in Krong Dak district of Dak Lak province, a resident told RFA.

When news of the incident reached authorities in the city, they dispatched 20 vans with up to 500 police officers to the scene to rescue the trio and arrest 25 people.

After interrogation, police released 18 and took the remaining seven to a temporary detention center, where they were charged with “resisting law enforcement” and “unlawfully detaining people,” state media reported.

Giang’s orchard had about 30,000 coffee trees and more than 100 durian trees, the latter of which would start bearing fruit in 2023, the resident said. Giang later posted on his Facebook page that about two-thirds of the trees in his orchard had been felled.

More than 1,000 households in Hoa Dong Township are now facing similar situations because they are all leasing agricultural land. In 1998, the families bought trees on the leased land and began sharing ownership with Thang Loi Coffee, which held a 51% stake, the resident said.

When Thang Loi changed its name and became a joint-stock company, it forced the families who leased its land to buy the company’s shares at preferential prices. But Giang and others didn’t buy them, believing the company’s move was illegal.

Angry local residents petitioned the president’s office, which ordered the Dak Lak People’s Committee to resolve the matter, although it was not resolved, the source said.

Hundreds of local households that have leased a total of 2,300 hectares (5,700 acres) of land from the company are at risk of losing their entire wealth — coffee and durian trees, the resident said.

RFA could not reach Do Hoang Phuc, chairman and general manager of Thang Loi Coffee Joint Stock Company, for comment. Hoang Thi Thu Ha, deputy general manager in charge of sales, declined to answer questions. RFA was also unable to reach Krong Pak police for comment.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnam. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.