The Vietnamese village of My Duc was the scene of a major hostage crisis that ended without bloodshed on Saturday, with the release of 38 police and public officials held hostage for a week by villagers angry about the seizure of their land.
The crisis began on April 15 when Hanoi police detained four representatives from nearby My Duc on charges of “disturbing public order.” The villagers were angered by what they described as the illegal seizure of their farmland by a military-owned telecommunications firm.
Complaints about dubious land seizures are commonplace in Vietnam, but this one quickly escalated. When police and officials converged on My Duc the following day, they were taken prisoner by the irate villagers.
The villagers were armed primarily with sticks, but they quickly set about fortifying their town with logs, sandbags, and bricks, forbidding outsiders to enter. The Vietnamese government responded with a news blackout on the crisis. Nervous about a possible police or military assault to rescue the 38 hostages, the villagers poured oil around the building where the prisoners were kept and threatened to burn them alive if they were attacked.
The South China Morning Post described it as “a rare act of defiance in the authoritarian communist nation where anger against official corruption and land seizures simmers but usually meets a forceful response from police.”
Three of the hostages managed to escape, while 15 more were released after a day of captivity. The others were held until the standoff ended on Saturday after Hanoi mayor Nguyen Duc Chung visited My Duc to negotiate and was allowed inside by the villagers. Chung agreed to release the villagers arrested by police last week, waived criminal charges against the hostage-takers, and promised to investigate the seizure of farmland.