“This is the most propitious time to, once and for all, renounce the errors of the past and return to serve the best interest of the country , under the tolerance of the people, before it is too late.”
Demonstrations by people with grievances have taken place for many years in Saigon and Hanoi but their appeals have not been satisfactorily addressed. Recently, on June 22, 2007, people of southern provinces from Tien Giang, Ðong Thap, Kien Giang, Long An, Binh Long, Binh Phuoc to Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, Lam Ðong – totally 19 provinces and some districts of Saigon suburbs – descended on the Office No. 2 of the National Assembly, at 194 Hoang Van Thu St., Phu Nhuan District, Saigon, and set up tents to demonstrate until the central government settles their long-held grievances. The demonstration has continued for nearly a month, most days with 300-400 persons, some days the numbers reach thousands, with banners demanding the government addresses the issues of local communist officials arbitrarily expropriating the people’s land without, or with puny compensation. These officials then turn around and resell the land at exorbitant prices or use it to enter into business with foreign corporations, effectively robbing the people of the land and their source of living. Hundreds of security police are always around to surround the protesters and thwart the Saigonese who try to help the protesters with food and water. On July 17, 2007, the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Rector of the Institute for the Propagation of the Faith of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), visited the protesters and offered them some money for subsistence.
To address the problem, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong held a meeting of southern provincial leaders to find ways to neutralize the issue. In this meeting, state Inspector General Tran Van Truyen concluded that the people’s grievances resulted from wrong policies on housing and land ownership. In addition to the policy issue, provincial officials are incompetent and there is also the lack of coordination among the related agencies to resolve the grievances. Yet, instead of correcting the failed policies, Trong demanded that force be used to handle the protest leaders and drummed up the accusation that 13 protest leaders colluded with foreign forces to foment unrest, without any evidence.
During the night of July 18, 2007, security forces, in overwhelming numbers equipped with tear gas, batons, handcuffs and supported by fire engines and ambulances, attacked and dispersed the protesters. Every protester was manhandled by 5, 6 security thugs and thrown onto buses to be taken back to the provinces, claiming that their grievances would be solved by local officials. According to some protesters, a number of them were arrested and jailed at Phu Nhuan District, other were assaulted and some suffered injuries that needed hospital care.
Even though the protest was dispersed, a communication network among protesters in the provinces has been established. A new class of young leaders has stepped forward and announced they would continue the appeals via “guerrilla tactics” and “continual attacks” on all three regions of the country. An army officer became angry when he witnessed the brutal measures the security police used to suppress the protesters. He said, “I cannot understand how these thugs could target the parents and siblings. Don’t they know that without the land, everyone will go hungry?” He believes it is time the military cannot turn a blind eye on these suppressions.
Ninety percent of these appeals result from the communist government failed policy on land ownership and the policy of compensation when the land is unfairly appropriated. But first and foremost, the greed of local officials and their monopoly of power allow them to take land of those weak and powerless farmers without fear of consequences. These aggrieved people have lodged their appeals for years, sometimes for decades, but the provincial leaders ignored them; they then had to appeal to the central government in Hanoi. But the central government kicks the ball back to the provinces, threatening the local officials that if they let the protesters come to Hanoi or Saigon, they would be denied promotion to the central committee the next time. And the vicious cycle continues.
The main cause of the problem is that the communist state does not recognize ownership of private property. All land is specified to belong to the state and the people can only have right to land use. The state can appropriate the land at any moment, normally with compensation at a dirt cheap price, much below that of the market. On many instances, the land is taken without any compensation on the pretext of public construction. Yet after some sleight of the administrative hand, the land belongs to the communist cadres or officials or their family relatives. This kind of injustice has accumulated for years and now bursts into the open.
Disputes about land and properties strongly affect the stability and economic development of the country. Indeed, while farmers take up to 85% of the population and up to 75% of the labor force (43 millions) in the entire country, there are about 10 million farmers unemployed, mostly young people. During the war, the communists exploited them with the propaganda of “government of the proletariat, workers and farmers are pioneers of the party, etc.,” and the farmers suffered most hardship. In peace, farmers are once more sacrificed. After Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization (WTO), trade and investment with the world accelerate and there is much need for land for partnerships or joint- ventures with foreign corporations. This big demand for land results in the opportunity for communist officials to get rich by robbing the farmers of their land, and their livelihood.
Moreover, the decision to allow party members to engage in business, and after the National Assembly, under the direction of the party, passed a number of laws and regulations that are ambiguous, complex, and full of loopholes, the powerful and rich cadres now can appropriate land everywhere with impunity. After WTO, the Vietnamese farmers face more hardship but are ignored by the regime; they haven’t seen any improvements in their lives from the integration process. Dissatisfaction breeds in all rural areas of the country, with great potential for a social revolution in the ownership of land. The demonstrations of the farmers recently are just the tip of the iceberg. The economy of Vietnam is boiling over with social injustices, not the kind of stability advertised by the propaganda machine of the regime.
The grievances of farmers can only be resolved when the Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) return the ownership of private property to the Vietnamese people, in accordance with Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that “(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others, and (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” Vietnam is a member of the United Nations and is obligated to honor the declaration.
Only on the basis of the recognition of private ownership can the
detriments inflicted by the ideology of communism be eliminated. These
destructions include the “land-reform” massacres, eradication of
business and commerce, confiscation of properties of religious
institutions, arbitrary appropriation of land of ethnic peoples, etc.
Using force to
return the demonstrators to their provincial oppressors only makes the matter worse.
We resolutely condemn and strongly protest the regime using security
forces with tear gas, batons, to arrest, detain, and assault the
demonstrators in front of the National Assembly Office No.2 at 194 Hoang
Van Thu St., Phu Nhuan District, Saigon on July 18, 2007. We are
calling on all Vietnamese, inside Vietnam and overseas, members of
congresses, democratic governments, and human rights organizations of the world to support the just struggle of people with grievances, and to resolutely demand the communist regime to return the right of private ownership to the Vietnamese people. The government must also bring to justice those corrupt officials who have abused their positions and power to rob the farmers of their property and means of living. At the same time, there must be just compensation for the land that had been appropriated for genuine public use.
The Politburo of the VCP, whose responsibilities largely belong to Messrs. Nong Duc Manh, Le Hong Anh, Nguyen Tan Dung, Nguyen Minh Triet, Nguyen Phu Trong, Truong Tan Sang, etc., should recognize that robbing the people of their private properties is immoral. They must beg for forgiveness from the Vietnamese people, abandon their dictatorial way, and implement the governance based on the rule of law. This is the most propitious time to, once and for all, renounce the errors of the past and return to serve the best interest of the country, under the tolerance of the people, before it is too late.