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Villagers chafe at low land compensation from the state

Vietnam farmers seek fair compensation

A farmer looks at his former land reclaimed by the government for a highway project A farmer looks at his former land reclaimed by the government for a highway project
  • ucanews.com reporter, Yen Bai
  • Vietnam
  • August 22, 2012
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Le Van Than, dressed in shabby clothing and looking hungry, says he has spent the last two years looking for temporary work at construction sites to support his wife and five children.

Four of his children have had to drop out of school and seek work to help make ends meet.

“We have been living in poverty since we lost our farm land that we inherited from our ancestors,” Than says.

In 2010, the government confiscated 3,600 square meters of family land for the construction of a national highway, Than says.

As compensation, the family was paid 270 million dong (US$13,500), with which Than says he bought a 200 square meter plot of land and built a 30 square meter home of wood and leaves.

“We know that the compensation was only half of the fair market price, but we farmers did not dare to complain to authorities,” Than says.

Than’s wife, Tran Thi Luu, said in the past the family harvested 1,000kg of rice and another 1,000kg of fish from the land they previously owned. From the proceeds they were able to pay school fees and support the family.

Now Luu says she makes 50,000 dong a day (about US$2.40) selling soft drinks and cigarettes to laborers working on the national highway project.

“I sometimes make a loss as I am not good at business,” she says. “We are really facing a very uncertain future.”

Than and his wife are among 30 families whose farms were confiscated for the project in the Minh Quan hamlet of Yen Bai province.

The 246-kilometer highway is expected to finish next year and will connect Hanoi to four northwestern provinces of Lao Cai, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc and Yen Bai.

Total site clearance for the project covers 20 square kilometers and will affect about 30,000 families.

Earlier this month, about 100 villagers from Vinh Phuc province set up tents on the highway site to block workers from continuing with construction. They demanded more compensation from the government for land taken for the project.

The demonstrators say in 2009 they were paid 43.5 million dong per 360 square meters of land, while villagers from neighboring Hanoi city were paid 236 million dong for the same amount of land in 2011.

Dao Phi Long, a Vinh Phuc provincial official, explained the difference by saying that villagers in Hanoi city had refused an initial compensation offer and were consequently offered more.

Local critics said land prices regulated by provinces are only equal to 10 percent of the market prices in downtown Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and some 50-60 percent in other large urban areas.

Pham Dinh Cuong, head of the Ministry of Finance’s State Property Management Bureau, said land price evaluations are announced by provincial authorities in January each year and often increase annually. As a result, villagers facing land reclamation delay handing over the land in the hope of receiving more compensation.

Cuong said the delay causes difficulties in site clearance and can halt construction projects for years.

He added that differences between regulated and market land prices have also seen a rise in land disputes from communities forced to relocate because of construction projects.

Huynh Phong Tranh, general inspector of the Government Inspectorate, has said that in the last four years, some 400,000 people have filed complaints to the government over land disputes.

Conflicts over land remain a sensitive issue in the communist nation, where the government is the de facto owner of all land and where usage rights are not always clear or protected.

An amended draft law on land use is expected to be discussed by the National Assembly by the end of the year.

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