Power plant brings easy money, decadence to poor village

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A poor village in remote Quang Tri is rolling cash and vice after a hydropower plant paid out compensations to build on local farmland.

Located in Huong Hoa District’s Huc Commune, Ta Rung Village now stands out among its neighbors for the bellowing karaoke machines and brand new motorbikes found at nearly every stilt house in the one-road hamlet.

At least 65 new motorbikes have recently been brought into the village, an ethnic Van Kieu community in which 65 of 98 local families received compensation after it was announced last year that the Khe Dong Hydropower plant would be built on their land.

Ho Thi Viet said his brother in law had just bought a brand new motorbike after receiving payment for several hectares of his farmland.

“They paid him money, and he bought the bike.”

She said her brother-in-law was given VND80 million (US$4,232) in compensation for the land.

Some people bought two new bikes at once, like Pa Ung, who was paid VND100 million, or Ho Van Deng, who bought three after receiving VND80 million.

Many villagers also bought mobile phones just to play music, as local telecommunications systems have yet to reach the rural village.

Ho Van Duc, chairman of Huc Commune People’s Committee, said it was now common to see young Van Kieu getting blind drunk at all-night parties.

“They’re happy because they’ve never had so much money before,” he said.

However, not everyone is happy with the dramatic changes in the village.

Ho Ta Hum, 70, said previous generations spent their whole life developing the land, but now the current generation was happy to sell the land at the bat of an eye.

“I’m so sad to see them like that, but I can’t interfere because I’m already too old,” Hum said, adding that late-night fights had become a part of everyday life in the village as more people were drinking and staying out all night.

“We anticipated this would happen, so we held campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers [of wasting money],” said Ho Quoc Trung, vice chairman of Huc Commune’s People’s Committee. “But since they [Ta Rung villagers] got the money, all they care about is motorbikes and drinking,”

Huc Commune’s authorities said they were not sure of the total amount of compensation paid to Ta Rung residents, but they did say that the village had very little farmland left after so many hectares were set aside for the VND200 billion hydropower plant.

Reported by Nguyen Phuc

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