Compensation squandered

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Farmers in a village in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum have spent their site-clearance compensation on purchasing cars and partying instead of investing in new businesses, baffling and worrying authorities and experts.

For generations, people of the Xe Dang ethnic minority community have resided in Vi Rin Village, which is situated deep in an alley of Dak Tang Commune and difficult to access.

They have always lived by cultivating their land, but roughly 150 residents here have received money to leave their land for the Thuong Kon Tum Hydroelectric Plant project, on which work already began in 2009.

According to A Son, the village's head, the compensation was around VND25 million to VND3 billion (US$1,197-$143,672) depending on the size of the land given up.

Since more than a month ago, several villagers have bought nearly a dozen of second-hand cars of different brands including Toyota, UAZ and Ssangyong worth billions of dongs, although they all have no driving license and can only learn driving by imitation.

Vietweek reporters also found people in the area drinking beer instead of their traditional homemade wine and several houses had karaoke systems.

Phan Dinh Hai, an official of Kon Plong District People's Committee, said local authorities were worried that villagers who got the compensation would not know how to spend it properly, so they were advised to deposit the money in banks. However, many of them used the money to buy cars and hold parties.

Nguyen Xuan Mai of the Institute of Sociology's Urban Research Department, said the splurging of compensation received for site clearance was "common" in many regions, including urban, rural, and mountainous areas.

She said authorities were typically focusing on clearing sites and paying compensation and paying no attention to preparing the affected people for their new lives.

Echoing Mai, Vo Tri Hao of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics, suggested that regulations should require farmers losing their lands to be helped with stable jobs before compensation of sums that they are not used to handling are paid.

Doan Xuan Trong, Chairman of Dak Tang Commune People's Committee said the people were still living and cultivate normally on their land that will be submerged by the water reservoir of the hydroelectric plant. But authorities in the commune have allotted a relocation area around one kilometer from their current lands, he added.

Pham Thanh Van, head of Kon Plong District's labor department, his office plans to offer classes that will teach affected residents construction work and animal husbandry.

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