Vietnam reassigns official tied to illegal land revocation case

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The Party head of a district in northern Vietnam, which has been focus of discussions for a notorious illegal land revocation case of early last year, has been transferred from his post.

A statement from the Hai Phong Party unit on Monday said Bui The Nghia was no longer the head of the Tien Lang District Party unit and has been reassigned as deputy head of the city's Department of Science and Technology.

His subordinates said he was present at the revocation and who had given the ill-fated orders, but he has denied all allegations.

Police said they found no evidence of criminality on Nghia's part.

Nghia's position will be taken over by the former head of economic and budget issues at Hai Phong Council Committee, which is the city legislative unit, while the official Nghia is replacing has been appointed chairman of Tien Lang District.

The district's former chairman, Le Van Hien, was dismissed late last month and charged of "irresponsibility causing serious consequences" for letting his subordinates carry out the militarized revocation.

Hien were suspended in February when the case made headlines nationwide, but was reinstated later and transferred to the district Department of Interior in April.

On January 5, 2012, some 100 local police officers and soldiers of the district stormed the house of Doan Van Vuon to force him to return the land that he and his family had worked for decades.

Vietnam's Prime Minister later called the revocation illegal for its violation of land laws and said it was carried out improperly in several ways in terms of the size of the force that was used and the subsequent razing of two houses of the farmers.

The district authorities allocated 21 hectares of swampland to Vuon in 1993 to develop aquaculture farms; they issued him an additional 19.3 hectares in 1997.

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In Vietnam, land is owned by the government and people are given land use rights.

Vietnam land laws, established in 1993, stipulated that all farmland for short-term crops and fish farms nationwide would receive 20 year leases.

The 2003 Land Law allowed the term to be extended for farmers who were using the land for agricultural purposes.

Four other district officials faced charges of "destroying property" for carrying out the revocation and ordering the destruction of the houses.

One of them Nguyen Van Khanh, the district's former vice chairman, has been under arrest since late October, while three lower-raking officials remain at large.

For the farmers who resisted the evacuation with improvised shotguns and homemade mines, Hai Phong police have demanded charges of attempted murder and "obstructing an official mission."

But legal experts have disagreed, saying there is no evidence that the farmers had premeditated murder in the first place, and that they should not be charged with resisting an official mission, now that the mission in question has been classified as illegal.

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