PM calls Hai Phong land revocation illegal

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has demanded that officials involved in what he said was an illegal land revocation that turned violent last month be punished severely.

Chief of the Government Office Vu Duc Dam, who announced the PM's conclusions at a meeting on Friday in Hanoi, said the decision by Hai Phong City's Tien Lang District authorities to revoke the land of Doan Van Vuon broke the 2003 Land Law.

Vuon's case could not be categorized as one of the five kinds of cases in which authorities are allowed to revoke land under the law, Dam explained.

Dung also said the revocation had been carried out improperly in several ways.

He asked Hai Phong authorities to withdraw all land revocation decisions issued by the district's People's Committee.

According to Dung, Tien Lang District authorities also violated the law when allocating the land, a 19.3-hectare swampland, to Vuon in 1997 for 14 years.

The allocation was made by authorities in response to a proposal by Vuon, who was allocated 21 hectares in 1993 to develop aquaculture farms, as part of the local government's plan to reclaim swampland in the district.

On January 5, some 100 local police and soldiers stormed Vuon's house to force him to return the land.

However, Vuon and his family resisted, having been led to believe earlier that a compromise had been reached where he would no longer be asked to vacate the land. They resisted the police and soldiers with improvised shotguns and homemade mines, injuring six policemen and soldiers that day.

Next steps

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While he ordered Hai Phong police to clarify accusations that Tien Lang authorities destroyed Vuon's house after the melee, Dung also asked related agencies to bring Vuon and his family to court for their violent resistance as soon as possible.

However, he asked that the illegality of the local authorities' actions be taken into consideration when punishing Vuon and his family. 

Six members of Vuon's family are being investigated on charges of murder and "acting against people on public mission." Four of them, including Vuon, are currently in custody. Though no one was killed in the incident, Vietnamese law makes no distinction between charging a suspect with murder or attempted murder, though if convicted, a case of attempted murder carries a sentence one-third as long as a completed murder.

Local police also opened an investigation into the destruction of Vuon's house -- which was razed to the ground the day after the violent encounter -- on Wednesday. Three local men said government and Party leaders in Tien Lang District and Vinh Quang Commune had paid them to demolish the home.

At the meeting, Chu Pham Ngoc Hien, deputy minister of environment, said that his agency would review the legality and illegality of all lands under Vuon's name..

Those which were leased out illegally would be subject to revocation, but he could continue using those which were given to him legally, according to Hien.

The PM also asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to cooperate with other agencies to review and revise regulations on land management and use.

In response to concerns that many farmers in the area who were given land in 1993 will see their land use rights expire next year, Hien said his agency would propose that the government grant the farmers automatic extensions until new regulations are issued.

HAI PHONG WANTS TO END LAND REVOCATION SAGA NEXT MONTH

Hai Phong City authorities said they will report to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on all activities related to the land revocation on March 30, VnExpress reported Saturday.

The newswire quoted a representative of the Hai Phong People's Committee as saying that a task force will be established to deal with the consequences of Tien Lang District's actions in accordance with the PM's conclusions.

The force's detailed action plan will be published in the media and on the city's official government website, the report said.

According to the official, Hai Phong will soon officially announce its decision to suspend Le Van Hien, chairman of Tien Lang District's People's Committee and his subordinate, vice chairman Nguyen Van Khanh, to review their responsibilities.

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