Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has instructed Hai Phong City to inspect procedures used in allotting and revoking farmland in a controversial case that led to a violent confrontation between farmers and local authorities.
The municipal administration head - chairman of the Hai Phong People's Committee will have to report to the central government about responsibilities of individuals involved if violations are found, according to a statement posted Tuesday on the government website.
On January 5, local police and military went to Doan Van Vuon's home to force his family to return the 50-hectare plot of land that Tien Lang District's authorities had assigned to him for aquaculture farming for 14 years. A controversial decision claimed his right to use the land expired in 2007.
However, the family refused and set up homemade mines along the only entrance to their house to fight the forced eviction. During the confrontation, a mine exploded and Vuon's brother Doan Van Qui and two others allegedly shot at the force with two self-made guns, injuring four policemen and two soldiers.
Four men have been arrested on attempted murder charges while police are hunting for two others accused of being involved in the incident.
On January 12, Hai Phong authorities held a press briefing where the Tien Lang People's Committee Chairman, Le Van Hien, asserted that they had done nothing wrong in allotting and revoking land from Vuon.
The Tien Lang administration allotted land to Vuon on October 4, 1993, just 15 days before the Land Law of 1993 took effect, replacing the Land Law of 1987. The latter stipulated that aquaculture land would be allotted for a fixed period of 20 years.
Thus, Hien said Tien Lang District had every right to revoke land after 14 years had expired as was originally contracted.
Former deputy minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Dang Hung Vo has criticized authorities in Hai Phong City's Tien Lang District for trying to justify revoking a farmer's land that prompted him to defend his home with guns and mines.
"I am willing to confront Tien Lang District. It's a simple issue. But the Hai Phong People's Committee must render their own opinion first," Vo told the media on January 13, one day after Hai Phong authorities held the press briefing on the case.
"I think the best way for Tien Lang District now is to admit that they were wrong. That's the only way they can be right," he said.
Vo said Tien Lang District authorities should have extended the lease to 20 years after the Land Law 1993 took effect.
"It is possible for one who does not understand law to say so. Those who understand and enforce the Land Law could not say so. What he [chairman Hien] said was not correct at all," Vo told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
At the briefing, the media asked whether Vuon's house that was totally destroyed in the incident - was part of the revocation decision, but no answer was given.
Tien Lang Chairman Hien only said they "disassembled" the house because it was the hiding place of suspects accused of opposing the revocation.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked that the Hai Phong agency issue a report about the case.
Pham Van Tinh, deputy chief inspector of the ministry's Land Management Department, said Tien Lang authorities were wrong in revoking Vuon's land without compensation or support.
If the revocation was made on land after his rights of use expired, he must be supported for damages.
According to Tinh, Tien Lang District should allot land to Vuon's family with a maximum area allowed by law [of two hectares] and the rest could be put up for auction which Vuon's family could bid on.
Dinh Xuan Thao, director of the National Assembly Standing Committee's Institute of Legislative Studies, said local authorities have wrongly revoked Vuon's land due to low awareness of law or under the thinking the residents do not understand law.
He said Tien Lang District would have to compensate for destroying Vuon's house and identify the responsibility of relevant people.
"There is no regulation allowing destruction of the house of a man because he violates the law. It's their legal property," he told the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper.
Thao also questioned why Tien Lang District employed military force during a land revocation.