Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a Facebook user for sharing his grievances about how the local government has handled a dispute over his family’s land, RFA has learned.
Le Van Hai, from Binh Dinh province in the country’s South Central Coast region was charged with “abusing freedom and democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 33 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
Local media outlet Youth Online reported the arrest Friday and it was confirmed by police in Binh Dinh.
According to the report, Le was detained over a period of two months, and police conducted a search of his residence in the coastal city of Qui Nhon.
The police investigation into Le’s case states that he often used his Facebook account to share or post many stories that slandered or offended the prestige of Vietnamese government leaders, including communist party members and provincial officials.
Le had also sent many complaints to Binh Dinh authorities asking for compensation payments because his family’s house and land had been confiscated to build a wastewater treatment plant in Qui Nhon.
When authorities denied the request, he shared his frustration on Facebook.
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.
Le’s case came to light after a court in Hanoi sentenced two vilagers to death, and gave several others long sentences, in the trial of 29 villagers over a deadly land-rights clash in January at the Dong Tam commune near Vietnam’s capital.
Three police officers were killed in the Jan. 9 clash when they were attacked by petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft while running between two houses. The village elder and father of the two condemned convicts also died in the raid.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, of which 55 million are estimated to be users of Facebook, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.