Last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 28 December 2012

Vietnam land repossessions

Summary

24 January 2012

The use of land is one of the most contentious issues in Vietnam, where all land belongs to the state and private ownership is not allowed. A violent clash between local authorities and a farmer family earlier this month has highlighted the need to reform the land policy.

Reporter
Nga Pham

people in rice paddy fields

People working on the land

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It was like a scene from an action movie. More than one hundred police officers with firearms and sniffer dogs took part in a four-hour stand-off with villagers armed with homemade bombs and shotguns.

The result - six officers injured and four farmers arrested on attempted murder charges. This was a case of a land eviction that went horribly wrong.

The lease on the farmer's land was coming to an end, and the local government wanted it back. But Doan Van Vuon's family refused to leave, saying that they had to borrow money and work hard for twenty years to develop the farm and are yet to receive any income from it.

According to Vietnam's Land Law, individuals are given the right to work any piece of land for 20 years. After that, the local government decides whether their lease will be extended or the land given to someone else.

This, some say, gives officials at the district level too much power in deciding people's livelihoods and creates a fertile environment for corruption. There are calls to privatise farmland in order to manage it better and more fairly.

To do so, the constitution which says that all land belongs to the state, needs to be changed. Top communist party leaders are reluctant to discuss this as they consider it anti-socialist. But without a solution, the land problem will continue ticking away, possibly with more violent confrontations in the future.

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Vocabulary

stand-off

a dispute that has reached a situation where no agreement can be reached

eviction

forced removal of someone (from their land)

lease

legal agreement (to pay to use a building or land)

livelihoods

work that earn people money to live on

fertile environment

the necessary conditions for (corruption) to easily develop

corruption

dishonest or illegal behaviour

privatise

sell state property to private owners

constitution

the system of laws and basic principles that a state is governed by

reluctant

hesitating, not keen

confrontations

face-to-face disagreements between two groups of people

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