Vietnam's revised land law won’t stop unfair land grabs: critics

Opponents say corrupt officials and real estate companies will still benefit while the public suffers.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.01.18
Vietnam's revised land law won’t stop unfair land grabs: critics Former residents of Ho Chi Minh City’s Loc Hung Vegetable Garden protest to demand compensation from Vietnam’s government for their land, in an undated photo..
Facebook: Vuon Rau Loc Hung

Vietnam’s National Assembly passed a revised land law this week, which its environment ministry said would help the country's socio-economic development and revive a stagnant real estate sector. Many are unconvinced. 

The revised law allows provincial councils or the central government to decide land price bands annually, compared to the current five years.

But a former deputy minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Dang Hung Vo, said the fact that national and provincial officials have the ultimate say on land use is one of the main problems in the real estate sector.

“We must have an effective mechanism because the current one is that the state decides everything,” he told Radio Free Asia on Thursday, adding that this leads to an inefficient housing market.

The revised law specifies 32 instances where land can be taken by the state to serve socio-economic purposes.

These must be public works projects such as the construction of government agency headquarters and public housing or land auctions to raise revenue for the state budget.

The Online Law newspaper said the 32 categories mean the state’s actions will be more transparent, which should help ensure democracy, objectivity, fairness, transparency, speed and compliance with the law.

All land in Vietnam is technically owned by the state although it often offers compensation for people who have built homes on it or are farming it.

One controversial case is Ho Chi Minh City’s Loc Hung Vegetable Garden.

In 2019, the government evicted people from 503 homes to clear the land for a school development. Around half the former residents said last month they had still not received compensation.

Cao Ha Truc is a former resident, filing a lawsuit in connection with the land grab.

He told RFA Vietnamese he believed the revised law needed further changes to compensate people before they lost their land.

“In the past, they did the reverse process, meaning they took the land first and anyone who had a complaint [was counted later],” he said, adding that private enterprises shouldn’t benefit from state projects.

“They took the right to recover [the land] and gave it to investment companies.”

The new law takes effect from Jan. 1, 2025, except for a few specific regulations that will be introduced immediately.

According to an article on the National Assembly e-portal, because the old law had broad regulations on the state’s ability to recover land, some 70% of long-term complaints and lawsuits were related to state land grabs.

Dang Hung Vo said many major lawsuits were related to the state confiscating land and giving it to private corporations to make a profit.

He said that is unlikely to change with the revised law.

“If the land clearance issue is more reasonable, the number of complaints may decrease, but in terms of the principles that create complaints, I think nothing has changed."

Cao Ha Truc said, along with revisions to the land law, the state needed to address the issue of corruption.

"The vibrant real estate market has caused the greed of officials and investors to emerge,” he added.

“They are willing to push those who own land to the margins of society.

“Today there is corruption throughout the country. 

“The poor are abandoned and people are screaming everywhere."

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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Dega people in the Central Highlands in Vietnam
Jan 20, 2024 03:47 PM

RFA must tell the communist clonialist settlers regime to return the land Central Highlands to ritgth owner the Dega people.