Authorities in the seaside resort town of Nha Trang illegally bulldozed a resident's home on Tuesday, after failing for fourteen years to secure a court injunction to do so.
A group of uniformed police (some carrying riot shields) and plainclothes agents arrived at the home of Dang Dinh Lap on Tuesday morning and began destroying the building. Lap, who has legally occupied his home at 100 Tran Phu Street for 30 years, stood by with his family as the group demolished half his home.
Police and provincial authorities revoke the house of Dang Dinh Lap on Tuesday morning.
The demolition followed a recent decision issued by the municipal authorities under which Lap’s house and a piece of the neighboring lot were allotted to a man named Dang Van Hao.
The decision offered no explanation as to why Hao was entitled to the land--though the provincial People’s committee, the local government, had been trying to do so for years.
Hao's father died fighting for Vietnam's liberation and his mother was a wounded combat veteran.
However, his family had already been granted a home for their sacrifices.
On July 18, police recovered a sizable quantity of drugs from that home and placed Hao under arrest.
A life of service
In 1984, the Airforce Officer's Academy in Nha Trang, gave Lap, then an instructor at the academy, an apartment in a building located at 100 Tran Phu street.
In 1994, the school sold him a total of 120 square meters of land which included his apartment and an adjoining plot.
Lap’s family lived on the land until he received a decision, signed by the then-deputy chairman of the province Tran Minh Duan, stating that the authorities would revoke his land use rights and allocate them to another household in January of 2000.
Vietnam does not technically allow land ownership but grants land-use rights, which confer the same rights as freehold property.
After his petitions and appeals to the provincial authorities failed to illicit a response, Lap took legal proceedings against the provincial people’s committee.
A lower provincial court dismissed his petition in November 2008, prompting Lap to bring his case to a superior court in the central city of Da Nang, which reversed the dismissal the following March.
The Khanh Hoa authorities asked the court to reconsider the case.
In February 2010, a written decision issued by the Da Nang court dismissed the Khanh Hoa inquiry as "baseless.”
Khanh Hoa authorities disobey court ruling
Rather than obey the judgment, the Khanh Hoa People’s Committee directed the Nha Trang People’s committee and other departments in the town to redraw the plot at 100 Tran Phu street.
The rezoning effectively nullified Lap's and his unidentified neighbor's ownership of 314 square meters of land.
At a recent press conference, a spokesperson from the province insisted that they had strictly obeyed the superior court judgment and claimed that the demolition of Lap’s home was conducted according to an entirely separate decision.
Although the provincial authorities said that there is no relationship between their previous order and their latest decision to destroy Lap’s home and take his land, the fact that Hao (a suspect in a drug investigation) received Lap’s land sparked local outrage and a government inspection.
The results of a government inspection report submitted to the Prime Minister on June 18 found that the Khanh Hoa People’s Committee has failed to reimburse Lap for his legal costs and ignored all other aspects of the superior court judgement issued in March of 2009.
The report also identified Lap as the rightful owner of the land he has lived on, without lawful, dispute for 30 years.
Before the Prime Minister could respond to the findings, the provincial authorities mobilized the destruction of Lap’s home.
Lap, whose family lives above a cheap lunch counter, described feeling weak and defeated as he watched the bulldozer level half of his home on Tuesday afternoon.
“I opened a cheap rice stall in my house to make a living, but now they've cut my electricity and seized all of our furniture. We'll have to sleep on the floor tonight,” Lap told Thanh Nien, referring to the half of his home that remains standing.
“The court is the representative of the law, no one should stand above the law, but they [the Khanh Hoa authorities] have done so,” Lap said pointing the rubble that used to be his home. “My cries were heard by no one.”