Benedictine monks in Vietnam’s Thua Thien Hue province have accused local authorities of backing thugs who attacked their monastery as part of a land grab campaign, saying two attacks took place within four days. Five people armed with knives and machetes went on the rampage last week breaking stools, benches, tables, electric fans and other items at the monastery in Thien An, Benedictine Brother Nicholas Le Van Thuong told UCA News on July 13. They also threatened to kill monks who tried to stop what they were doing and ripped up tents the monks use as shelters while tending to their orange orchard, he said. Three days later, they were back and felled many pine trees and demarcated the land the trees were on with bamboo stakes, the monk added. On both occasions, the attacks were led by a former member of Thuy Bang Commune militia called Nguyen Viet Ton, according to Thuong.
He said Ton had erected a house on a 500-square-meter plot of land near the monks’ orange orchard in 2008 and has gradually been encroaching on monastery land since then by felling pine trees and replacing them with eucalyptus trees. The alleged land grabber has laid claim to more than 2,000 square meters of land, Thuong said. Ton and his relatives were also showing other people wanting to buy land plots around the monastery the monk added. The brother said local authorities have sold plots of monastery land to many people who have built houses, restaurants and set up poultry and cattle farms. “We are fighting a losing battle against those who are being supported by the local government to take our property,” Thuong said. In 2002, local authorities allegedly grabbed 107 hectares of land, leaving the monks with only 5.5 hectares, despite them having had legal ownership of the monastery and its 107 hectares of pine forest and farmland since 1940. The monks say they have never transferred ownership of any of it to any individual or organization. Thuong said the monks appealed to provincial officials and the central government on July 12 to punish those trying take their land, however previous appeals have been ignored.
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