- Posted September 20, 2013 by
THIS IS MY LAND. GIVE ME BACK MY LAND! - DAN OAN
Dan Oan is not a recent problem in Vietnam and has been occurring for many years, and the problem is getting worse. In the US, the government can take away personal property under the rule of “eminent domain.” Under this rule, the government should only take personal property when it will help the national security or benefit the community as a whole; they should not take property just to benefit themselves or a select group of people. Also, the government should negotiate and pay a reasonable amount for the property that will be confiscated. Finally, the people have the option of taking the matter to a court of law if they don’t agree with the arrangement. Of course, not every system is perfect, but at least people in America have several options to address their issues.
Vietnam, however, is not a system based on rule of law. It seems that the government can do whatever they want without regard to personal rights. Of course the government (or government-friendly) people will deny that the problem really exists. I, however, have personal knowledge of a couple of particular incidents, and have heard of others from people whom I consider reliable sources. I will relate the incidents that I know of personally even though I consider the others from reliable sources.
For the first incident, I have known one family owned a large shrimp farm (Ho Tom) in Quy Nhon. The shrimp farm had been in their family for 3 generations, and had grown into a very profitable business. They told me that, according to the market price, this shrimp farm plus the land and houses should be worth around 1 million USD, but the government would only pay them around 100,000 USD. They also said that if the family didn’t agree with that price, then the government would just take the property anyway without paying them anything. They had no legal options in the Vietnamese court system, so they had to take the small amount offered. They have since moved off of the property and the government has taken over the shrimp farm.
The second incident occurred when I was at the US Embassy in Saigon in 2009. When I exited the Embassy, I saw a group of people in the front with signs and banners. At first I didn’t understand what they were doing there, so I asked a bystander what was going on. He told me that the government took these people’s lands and properties away from them. They tried to file petitions and appeals, but the government ignored them, so they were protesting. I moved in to talk to one of demonstrators directly to get more accurate information. At that time, the police came over and chased me away. They threatened me that they would arrest me and put in me jail if I spoke to anyone or took pictures of the demonstration. The actions of the police made me believe the story even more.
There were over 700,000 complaints about land cases in the last three years. Dan Oan are everywhere in Vietnam. I believe that the Dan Oan situation is not just a problem, it is really a tragedy. To start with, Vietnamese citizens have no legal recourse to help them with their government issues. Additionally, the Dan Oan is not only a question of money; it is often a question of livelihood or even potential homelessness.
Over the recent years, the situation has gotten more radicalized, with people demonstrating, fights between Dan Oan and police or government agents such as Van Giang District and Ha Dong district, the urban area of Hanoi, and even activists with homemade bombs and guns like the famous case of Mr. Doan Van Vuon and his family. According to Huff Post World, “Members of the Vuon family say they were given the 41 hectares (101 acres) of land by authorities in 1993, when it was swampland that had been badly damaged by a typhoon. They transformed it into a fish and prawn business. In 2009, authorities said they wanted the land back without compensation.” They refused to turn their land over to the government and were arrested for fighting back against a state eviction squad with homemade guns and land mines. They were found guilty of planting mines and firing homemade guns at police trying to evict them from the land where they ran a shrimp business. They were sentenced to between two and five years in prison. A recent event that shocked the nation of Vietnam, on September 11, Mr. Dang Ngoc Viet entered the People’s Committee Land Development Department of Thai Binh City, and opened fire, injuring four officials and killing one. After his shooting spree, Mr. Dang ran away to a temple and then later killed himself. This land dispute has ended in tragedy.
Then the next question that needs to be answered is, whether or not Dan Oan are being fairly compensated for their losses. We can pick Van Giang’s District as an example. According to the Vietnam Express “The citizen of Van Giang was offered 135,000 vn dong per square meter of land (approximately 75 cent per square foot) that they are required to give up. A quick search of land being sold around Van Giang have land prices varying from 2.2 million vn dong to 5.5 million vn per square meter ($12.22 to $30.55 per square foot) depending on location. It would be quite difficult to argue that Dan Oan are being fairly compensated for their losses. Now perhaps one can understand the plight of Vietnam’s Dan Oan.