Vietnamese official held by cemetery protesters

A local official was held for about 10 hours by villagers who were protesting the construction of a large cemetery in a suburb of Vietnam’s capital, state-controlled media said Saturday.

About 3,000 villagers shouted and screamed outside a government building in Minh Phu village on Friday to protest the project as officials were meeting inside, the Tien Phong (Pioneer) newspaper reported.

Villagers say the 370-acre (150-hectare) cemetery, for people in the Hanoi region, would contaminate their underground water. They do not have running water and rely on water from wells.

The crowd went wild and quickly surrounded the building when somebody shouted that police had beaten a student, the newspaper said.

The villagers locked the deputy chief of the Communist Party in Soc Son district, Vuong Van But, in a room for about 10 hours until he managed to escape, it said.

A local official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media denied that police had beaten anyone or that any officials were held by the villagers.

He said the officials had been unable to conduct their meeting because of the loud protests and had chosen to remain in the building to avoid any possible violence.

Local officials persuaded the crowd to disperse at about midnight, he said.

The official said the villagers have held more than 10 protests this year.

Protests by villagers over land taken for development projects are common in Vietnam, and dozens of people have been jailed in recent years on charges of attacking officials in such disputes.

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