Mounting land grievances could lead to instability: house speaker

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Many complaints relating to land revocation justified, parliamentary report says

  Farmers carry rice crops while harvesting a rice paddy field in Thuy Huong Village, outside Hanoi. Government offices received more than 1.2 million complaints and denouncements between 2003and 2010, of which 70 percent were about land, a parliamentary report says. Photo: Reuters

The increasing number of residents with legitimate grievances over the government's revoking of land and compensation has become a "very serious" problem that threatens "social stability and order," National Assembly chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said.

"There have been more and more complaints, including complaints by groups of many people," Hung said Tuesday at a session of the Assembly's Standing Committee.

"This has affected residents' life and social stability and order," he said, adding that the high number of complaints with a high proportion of justified ones makes it a very serious problem.

According to a report by the parliament's land policy inspection committee, government offices received more than 1.2 million complaints and denouncements between 2003 (when the current Land Law took effect) and 2010, of which 70 percent were about land.

Between 2008 and 2011, government offices received and handled nearly 700,000 letters of complaints/denouncements.

Among the complaints about land, 70 percent were about revoking land, providing inadequate compensation and a lack of relocation support.

Under Vietnam's prevailing Land Law, all land in Vietnam belongs to all residents and is under the government's management. People can lease land and pay rent as well as buy land-usage rights (land title) for a limited or unlimited time depending on land use purposes.

Nguyen Van Giau, chairman of the Assembly's Economic Committee, said 47.8 percent of complaints were "partially or fully reasonable," meaning that there were shortcomings by government offices in issuing decisions involving land.

Hung, the house speaker, said the central government, state inspectors and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should identify wrongdoings and come up with fair solutions and compensation for the residents.

"We need to have measures to solve the remaining [cases] and stave off further complaints and denouncements," he said.

Hung said the land policy inspection committee has to modify the report by mentioning the seriousness of the issue and proposing amendments to the Land Law and relevant documents.

Draft amendments to the Land Law are expected to be discussed at the National Assembly session next month and voted on in mid-2013.

The bill proposes that the government stipulate land prices on "the principle of being in line with market price."

House speaker Hung has questioned the proposal, saying the major issues involve land price, compensation and site clearance.

He also criticized a proposal that the government revoke land based on announced zoning plans. He said land should not be revoked before actual investment.

"Many industrial park projects are still working on filling up the land [long after land revocation], while affected residents have no land for production. So [is it okay to] just announce a project and revoke land?" he asked, referring to many projects that are not being carried out after land has been revoked.

The draft amendments also propose an increase in the lease of farmland to farmers from 20 to 50 years.

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