Vietnam Fatherland Front raises public concerns over controversial land revocation

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The Vietnam Fatherland Front, an umbrella group of the country's public organizations, has expressed concern over actions taken by local authorities in a land revocation case that turned violent early this month.

The revocation in Hai Phong City's Tien Lang District on January 5 was protested by agricultural engineer Doan Van Vuon and other farmers with home-made guns and mines.

Lawyers later said the revocation was legally wrong in various ways, prompting Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to order Hai Phong government to look back into the matter.

Vu Trong Kim, deputy chairman of the Fatherland Front Central Committee, and a majority of the members, agreed at a meeting held January 18 that the government should order an overall investigation into the revocation in Tien Lang District, and duly punish all guilty officers, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Kim said the committee itself will send a delegation to the district to look into the incident.

Many members of the committee said at the meeting that the revocation looked like a case of "extortion."

Vuon had around a hundred people, including police and soldiers from the Tien Lang district administration, visit his land and force him to give it back, with no reason given until now.

Vietnam's Land Law allows farmers to have the use rights over their allocated land for 20 years, but Vuon was forced to hand over more than 19 hectares he was given in 1997.

He had been allocated around 20 hectares in 1993 to develop aquaculture farms, as part of the local government's plan to reclaim swampland in the district.

A compromise solution reached in front of a judge in the revocation was apparently subverted by local authorities who decided to revoke the land by force, using the unusual step of deploying soldiers in the operation.


PM Dung orders Hai Phong to report on controversial land revocation
Lie of the land

The operation turned violent with improvised explosive devices being set off and officers being fired at, six of them suffering injuries.

Vuon was arrested and his wife and children not allowed to revisit the land.

The revocation team also contravened regulations by completely destroying two houses Vuon had built outside the 19 hectares to stay in and look after the land.

Kim raised many questions at the meeting about the legitimacy of the revocation.

"How did Hai Phong officers follow the laws in the revocation? Was Vuon forced into a corner? Will the local government compensate for destroying the houses? Those are matters the public really cares about now.

"Government agencies need to answer these questions and draw a lesson from this incident to help people regain confidence in the authorities," he said.

Vietnam's former president Le Duc Anh told the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper that he was afraid the case has damaged people's trust in the government.

He said Vuon should have been rewarded for his achievements in reclaiming wasteland instead of being forced to leave it.

The former president said unreasonable land revocation was not limited to Hai Phong, but happened in many places across the country. "In many places, agricultural land has been taken for so called urban areas and industrial zones, only to be left to waste for years."

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