Policemen from the capital Hanoi descended on a Catholic enclave in a village in Vietnam supposedly to help the local government build a new cultural center on land claimed by the Church.
A report on Radio Free Asia said the controversial site has seen several protests over the years, including one which led to the death of the local spiritual leader.
The report said police officers, vans, and ambulances arrived in the village last week “to arrest people.”
“The entrances and exits to the village are fenced off. Each post is guarded by five to seven policemen,” the report quoted a resident who asked not to be named for security reasons.
Dong Senh is a piece of land of about 59 hectares (146 acres) in size that has been a flashpoint for land disputes between locals and the city government.
In early 2020, the Ministry of Public Security and the Hanoi Police Department sent about 3,000 riot police to Hoanh village.
In the ensuing fight, spiritual leader Le Dinh Kinh was shot while 29 residents were arrested.
The death sentence was given to two Dong Tam residents and one received a life sentence for murder after two policemen reportedly died.
Others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms or given suspended sentences for “resisting on-duty state officials,” said the RFA report.
Police officers reportedly went into the houses of parishioners who had objected to the construction of the cultural center on parish land, according to another resident.
About 80 households in the parish out of about 300 Catholic households have oppose the cultural center project.
Since November 1, a small area of land of about 0.7 hectares (1.7 acres) in Hoanh village’s Thuong Lam parish has been surrounded with corrugated iron with a signboard saying “Construction area. Entry prohibited.”
According to parish priest Joseph Nguyen Van Thoan, the land has been owned by the Church for more than 100 years. He said it was bought by Father Loan of the Missionary Society to help the Church carry out its activities.
His claims are backed up by a document received by RFA, issued on June 27, 1956, saying “The Provincial Administrative Committee agrees to grant two acres of land to the parish church… to use for worship and for monks … to live and do religious work.”