Doctors operate on farmer crushed by bulldozer

Ms. Cham told the press that she was "so lucky to survive." Photo courtesy of the Nguoiduatin (The Herald).

Ms. Cham told the press that she was “so lucky to survive.” Photo courtesy of the Nguoiduatin (The Herald).

The woman crushed by a bulldozer at a land protest last week has undergone operations on her face and shoulders at a Hanoi hospital.

Le Thi Cham was still under anaesthetic when Vietnam Right Now visited the hospital on the night of July 15.

Doctors said they were working to reconstruct her jaw and she would need to remain in hospital for months because of the severity of her injuries.

The 54-year-old farmer was hit by the bulldozer and ground under its tracks during a protest by about a hundred farmers against the construction of a new industrial park east of the capital.

Her elder sister, Le Thi Thuy, told Vietnam Right Now that representatives of the development company in charge of the project, VSIP Hai Duong, had visited Ms Cham in hospital and given her the equivalent of US$150.

She recounted the mayhem as the protesters confronted the developers at the development site in Hai Duong Province east of the capital on the morning of July 7.

“Two drivers were involved,” she said.

“The main driver was the one in the bulldozer when my sister was run over. We screamed, we threw soil and stones at him, but he didn’t do anything to help. Then he got down from the vehicle and ran down a nearby street.”

Miss Thuy said some protesters pursued him and accused him of what they thought was murder.

He tried to hitch a ride with some lorry drivers, but instead of helping they beat him up until he collapsed, she said. He was also taken to hospital and is reported to be still there.

The other driver, Ms. Thuy said, got into the bulldozer and reversed it so that the farmers were able to pull her sister out.

The company is reported to have issued a statement acknowledging that one protester and one site worker, the driver, were injured.

Many land activists have come to visit Ms Cham in hospital.

Many have expressed their anger at the continuing refusal by local officials and the police to acknowledge she was crushed by a bulldozer.

Officials alleged that the incident had been fabricated because they said Ms Cham could not have survived in such circumstances.

They brushed aside apparent evidence from a video of the incident that circulated on social media and the word of many witnesses.

VSIP Hai Duong is a joint venture of the Singapore firm Sembcorp Development and the Vietnamese Becamex IDC.

It said the dispute had been simmering for some years since a previous developer initiated the project.

The farmers claim they have not been given adequate compensation for the land they lost.

Similar land development projects have led to intermittent clashes in other areas, with farmers often claiming they have been cheated out of adequate compensation.