Supporters flock to Vietnam city as fish farmer-turned-folk hero’s trial begins

AFP-JIJI

The trial of a Vietnamese fish farmer who became a folk hero after using homemade shotguns to resist eviction began Tuesday, with scores of people defying a heavy police presence to show their support.

Hundreds of police shut down the roads near Haiphong’s People’s Court to hold back supporters of Doan Van Vuon, who rose to prominence by leading his family’s resistance against authorities in a nation where land rights are a flash-point issue.

Six policeman were injured in January 2012 when the Vuon family armed themselves with homemade shotguns as local officials tried to forcibly evict them from their fish farm in Tien Lang district, around 90 km east of Hanoi.

Vuon and three other male relatives, who have been in detention since the incident, went on trial early Tuesday for attempted murder. The Vuon family’s rare act of defiance triggered a nationwide outpouring of support with even Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung saying the eviction was “illegal” and promising to prosecute corrupt local officials.

Five former local officials in the area will be tried next Monday over the destruction of Vuon’s house.

Vuon will be given a harsh sentence to “create fear,” said well-known prodemocracy campaigner Pham Hong Son, adding that there are “many other people facing illegal eviction, injustice.”

“If the government gives a lenient sentence it may urge other people to react more strongly,” he said.