A Vietnamese man frustrated by the outcome of a court case set himself ablaze in a protest Monday morning outside a government inspection office in the capital Hanoi, state media and witnesses at the scene said.
Bui Huu Tuan, aged about 57 and a resident of Hop Dong village in the Chuong My district outside Hanoi, and another resident of the same village had met earlier in the morning with an office staffer and left at 9:15 a.m., the government newspaper New Hanoi said.
Returning to the office about two hours later, Bui doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire, New Hanoi said, adding that bystanders and police immediately rushed to put out the flames, taking the badly burned man to a hospital.
No word was immediately available on Bui’s condition, though he is believed to have suffered severe injuries to his respiratory system as a result of drinking gasoline before setting the fire, sources said.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, a land-grab victim from Vietnam’s coastal Dinh Binh province named Pham Thi Hoa said she saw the burning from inside the government office.
“I was upstairs and saw fire and smoke, and I ran downstairs,” she said.
“When I got there, the fire had been put out, but I saw that his skin was all burned and his face had turned black.”
Forced into a corner
Also speaking to RFA, another victim of a forced eviction, Trinh Ba Phuong, said that villagers whose land has been seized are rarely helped by authorities and can become desperate, sometimes leading to suicide.
“This office is set up to receive complaints, but those on duty here can’t decide anything on their own,” he said.
“Complaints submitted here are mostly sent to other government departments, but the authorities there only cover things up and force people into a corner,” he said.
“Victims are frustrated,” he added.
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 landowners aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too little in compensation to those whose land is taken.
On Jan. 31, 2015, a female shopkeeper self-immolated in protest of an official decision to tear down her marketplace in central Vietnam, according to fellow merchants she had represented in negotiations with the government.
Nguyen Minh Tan, 45, set herself on fire at around 8:00 a.m. in Quang Nam province’s Dai Loc district out of desperation as local officials pushed forward with a plan to evict shopkeepers and build a new market, a witness to the self-immolation told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.