Tien Lang District scolded for denying wrongdoing in land revocation scandal

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A former government official 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 shotguns and home-made mines.

Dang Hung Vo, who was deputy minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said he was "willing to confront with Tien Lang District."

"It's a simple issue," Vo said. "But the Hai Phong City authorities must render their own opinion first," he told the media on January 13, one day after Hai Phong authorities held a press conference 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.

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 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 improvised explosive devices along the only entrance to their house to fight the forced eviction.

During the confrontation, a home-made 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 murder charges while police are hunting for two others accused of being involved.

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On January 12, Hai Phong authorities held a press conference where Tien Lang People's Committee Chairman Le Van Hien argued that they did nothing wrong in allotting and revoking land from Vuon.

According to the decision, Tien Lang 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.

However, 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 [Hien] said was not correct at all," he told Tuoi Tre Newspaper.

At the press conference, the media asked whether Vuon's house that was totally destroyed in the incident - falls under the revocation decision but no direct 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 requested that the Hai Phong agency issue a report about the case.

Pham Van Tinh, vice 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.

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