At a meeting with voters to “campaign for elections” on May 9 in Haiphong, National Assembly’s Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue said that if he continues to be elected as a member of the parliament and its chairman of the 15th term, he will place a focus on solving problems about land. Law Online newspaper online quoted Mr. Hue as saying that in 2022, the National Assembly will consider and amend the Land Law.
For people who are currently petitioning about the land disputes with the government from local to central, the promise made by Hue is nothing new and does not bring hope that their case will be resolved.
Mr. Cao Ha Chanh, a member of the Representative Committee of Loc Hung Vegetable Garden, which was coerced in January 2019, said:
“All the leaders of Vietnam in general and Ho Chi Minh City in particular, they say everything very good and very standard, but most importantly, they do not implement. When Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue just got up like all leaders of Vietnam, when they started their promotion, had their strong points, stated and affirmed. But for me, at present, I have not seen them implement these promises.”
Mr. Chanh said 124 households in Loc Hung Vegetable Garden who had registered to use agricultural land for more than 20 years have been subjected to land seizure many times.
He said even though they obey the law, pay taxes, declare and ask the authorities to settle, there is no response to the people here.
“The people have proven that they are using it stably and paying taxes, no matter whether there is a change or amendment of the law, it must be resolved for the people. Modified this time is the number of times that Loc Hung Vegetable Garden is still suffering. There are Party policies and revised Land Law that Loc Hung Vegetable Garden has not budged so far. It must be straightforward that the legal and policy institutions have not received citizens for 21 years, how can there be any trust between the people of Loc Hung Vegetable Garden and the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam?”
Loc Hung Vegetable Garden is just one example of tens of thousands of land dispute claims, but only a few cases have become popular “hot” spots, such as the violence case in Dong Tam commune, Duong Noi, Thu Thiem, etc.
According to Le Hieu Dang Club’s statistics, 80% of the people’s complaints are related to land. Moreover, about 80% of the disciplined cases involved officials at all levels from local to central about land corruption.
Statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in 2019 determined that 98% of complaints it received were in the land issues.
“I think that the thing that Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, Chairman of the National Assembly, said in the next term will correct the Land Law, in my opinion there is nothing but good news for people who lose their land,” commented Mr. Tran Bang, a civil society activist with extensive experience working with petitioners.
According to Mr. Bang, under the current state of “state ownership” mechanism, people are only disadvantaged because of cheap compensation, if they do not accept them, they will be evicted:
“Now, the authorities use the state ownership of land to take land from people. The regulation helps interest groups enrich themselves. Now taking land from people, giving it to businesses is not fair.”
Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue was also quoted by the state media that the Land Law should be adjusted to facilitate land accumulation in order to develop modern agricultural production.
Activist Tran Bang said that if you want to really resolve the conflict between the people and the government, as well as expand the use of agricultural land, you must resolve the ownership of the land in the country’s Constitution.
Mr. Bang speculated that the 15th National Assembly would increase the land rights of private agricultural households, but he said that any additions or amendments to a few articles of the Land Law without changing the Constitution would not be drastic.
“In my opinion, it is futile, it is just petty, patchy. Basically, it has to revise the Constitution. Failure to amend the Constitution from chapter 2 from Article 50 to Article 54 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 2013, the Land Law cannot be fundamentally amended.
Agriculture example, to develop into commodity agriculture, you must have a huge accumulation of fields. If you want to accumulate land, you must have a land policy that is private ownership so that non-agricultural production people can sell to people who like an agricultural business so that the whole area is included into hundreds of thousands of acres, like in America. People only cultivate, use aircraft to sow seeds, and can automate, they can create commercial agricultural products to compete with the world.
If we want to modernize agricultural production, we have to accumulate land, not according to the current regulations, each household cannot exceed 10 hectares, how can we produce economically on goods, how can we invest properly?”
Mr. Tran Hoang Ngan, Director of the HCM City Institute of Development Studies, who is also a candidate for National Assembly, said at a voter meeting that the revised Land Law is “a debt of the National Assembly to the people.”
The online newspaper Luat Online said the Prime Minister has asked ministries to review the problem of this law for the early approval of the 15th National Assembly.
According to Mr. Bang, what the leaders say is difficult to implement. People want the private property, but the idea of state ownership is still deeply rooted in Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
“To privatize, first of all, it must be multi-party. Freedom of association and freedom of speech is required. The second is private ownership. The third is judicial independence. Private property must have an independent judiciary.
Because when the dispute is not between the state and the people anymore, there is a need for a fair court that is holding the balance. In parallel with the ownership of private land, organizations and the state must go hand in hand with freedom of association, with an independent judiciary. That is non-political justice, that is, the army and the police are not allowed to participate in the issue of land disputes. If you dispute, and you bring guns away, the people will only lose. People don’t own guns, don’t have an army.”
According to Mr. Tran Bang, changing the Land Law must change political institutions.