Land seizure and resistance by fish farmer Doan Van Vuon, Hai Phong, Vietnam

Fish farmer Doan Van Vuon became a folk hero after defending his land with homemade weapons against seizure by local authorities.

<div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Description</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld"></td><td class="columns"><div class="less">Fish farmer Doan Van Vuon and his family had spent 18 years and all their savings to turn an unproductive swampland into an aquaculture farm. It was a hard process, during which their daughter and nephew had drowned, and during which the family had become heavily indebted. While after years of work and investment, the fish farm had turned into a viable business, everything changed suddenly, when in 2007 governmental plans appeared to turn the area into a residential zone and an international airport. The local authorities claimed the land back without offering compensation [1;2;3;4;5].</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">In response to the threat of losing their central livelihood asset, the family filed a lawsuit against the evictions in 2009, which was a rare case of legal action taken in a land dispute in Vietnam. After negotiations, the authorities promised that they could stay, if they would withdraw the lawsuit. However, after they did so, the eviction order was given anyway on November 24, 2011 [1;6]. Further, it was reported that thugs appeared that threatened the family, demolishing several fishponds [7]. In spite of the eviction order and violent threats, the family decided to stay and continue their business. <br/><br/>When the anti-riot police arrived on January 5, 2012, the family received them with home-made weapons and land-mines, in order to defend at all cost their land, however without the intention to kill anybody. Several officers were injured during the raid [1]. A few days later, the police returned to the farm to jail the farmer and to demolish his house as well as his brother’s property “out of revenge”, although the latter was not listed for eviction [6;7]. The occurrences soon turned into a national and international news story, and while some expected public condemnation for the violent actions, farmer Doan Van Vuon turned into a national hero, sympathized by other farmers, urban bloggers and even by state-owned media as a symbol of fight and resistance against the many unlawful land seizures in Vietnam, caused by public and private development [1;2;8]. <br/><br/>The case has provoked much discussion on land disputes in Vietnam. Several farmer protests followed, demanding justice for Doan Van Vuon and his family [9] and the catholic church of Hai Phong began petitioning in favor of the family [6]. A main argument in his favor was that he was cheated by the authorities, when in 1993 he was given a lease of only 13 years, instead of the common 20 years leases, specified by the 1993 land law [1]. Also former president Le Duc Ang started to defend the case and called Vuon a “model citizen”. A blogger from Hanoi raised more than 10,000 USD (223 million VND) to cover the family’s legal fees [1], and the Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called the evictions to be unlawful, ordering an investigation, which led to a 30 months prison sentence, as well as several suspensions, for local officials involved in the evictions [3].<br/><br/>While these events manifested a rare admission of unlawful land evictions, the family complained that the sentences were not just and biased in favor of the officials and that bribery during the court process was evident [3]. Also the fish farmer and some of his kin were jailed in April 2012, accused of attempted murder [1;3;7]. A legal battle followed, during which the farmer filed a suit to demand compensation for moral and material damages, amounting to 1.4 million USD, which however was rejected by the court as “baseless claims” [6]. In 2014, the court confirmed that Doan Van Vuon and his brother were sentenced to five years of prison and imposed a 1,000 USD fine (23 million VND) [h], while other families members were sentenced to 3 ½ years [5].<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Basic Data</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Name</td><td>Land seizure and resistance by fish farmer Doan Van Vuon, Hai Phong, Vietnam</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Country</td><td><a href="/country/vietnam">Vietnam</a></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Province</td><td>Hai Phon</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Site</td><td>Vinh Quang, Tiên Lãng district</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Accuracy of Location</td><td>HIGH local level</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Source of Conflict</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (1st level)</td><td>Infrastructure and Built Environment</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Conflict (2nd level)</td><td>Land acquisition conflicts<br /> Urban development conflicts<br /> Ports and airport projects</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Specific Commodities</td><td><a href='/commodity/land'>Land</a></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Project Details and Actors</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Details</td><td class="columns"><div class="less">According to newspapers, the local authorities seized the land due to a planned construction of residential zones and an international airport [1]. The project has not yet materialized.</div><a class="seemore" href="#">See more...</a><div class="more" style="display:none">The family had a land lease over 40 ha, on which they had constructed a fish farm.<br/><br/><a class="seeless" href="#">(See less)</a></div></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Project Area (in hectares)</td><td>40ha</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Level of Investment (in USD)</td><td>N/A</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Type of Population</td><td>Semi-urban</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Potential Affected Population</td><td>2 families</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Start Date</td><td>2007</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Relevant government actors</td><td>Tien Lang District People’s Committee</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Environmental justice organisations and other supporters</td><td>Tien Lang Aquatic Product Cultivation Association; Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">The Conflict and the Mobilization</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)</td><td>HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">When did the mobilization begin</td><td>PREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Groups Mobilizing</td><td>Farmers<br /> Fishermen<br /> Local ejos<br /> Local government/political parties<br /> Neighbours/citizens/communities<br /> Religious groups<br /> Urban bloggers</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Forms of Mobilization</td><td>Blockades<br /> Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes<br /> Land occupation<br /> Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism<br /> Media based activism/alternative media<br /> Official complaint letters and petitions<br /> Public campaigns<br /> Street protest/marches<br /> Threats to use arms<br /> Occupation of buildings/public spaces</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Impacts</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Environmental Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution<br /><strong>Potential: </strong>Air pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Health Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Socio-economic Impacts</td><td><strong>Visible: </strong>Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Outcome</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Project Status</td><td>Proposed (exploration phase)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Pathways for conflict outcome / response</td><td>Corruption<br /> Criminalization of activists<br /> Court decision (victory for environmental justice)<br /> Court decision (failure for environmental justice)<br /> Migration/displacement<br /> Repression<br /> Strengthening of participation<br /> Violent targeting of activists</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Development of Alternatives</td><td>There has been large public movement and support to return the land to the fish farmer; which however has not been the case.</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Do you consider this as a success?</td><td>No</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Why? Explain briefly.</td><td>Land dispossession went on in spite of unlawful evictions</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Sources and Materials</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Legislations</td><td><table><tr><td><p> Vietnamese Land Law of 2013 (Land Law No.45/2013/QH13)<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Vietnamese Land Law of 2003 (No. 13/2003/QH11)<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> Decree No. 22/1998/NĐ-CP (1998) on compensations for damage when the state recovers land for use in purposes of national defense, security, national interests and public interests<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">References</td><td><table><tr><td><p> [2] Hansen, 2013. Land Law, Land Rights, and Land Reform in Vietnam: A Deeper Look into “Land Grabbing” for Public and Private Development. SIT Graduate Institute.<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [8] Andrew Wells-Dang, Pham Quang Tu and Adam Burke (2015). Agrarian Change and Land Tenure in Vietnam through a Political Economy Lens. Conference Paper No. 45 - Land grabbing, conflict and agrarian ‐ environmental transformations: perspectives from East and Southeast Asia<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Links</td><td><table><tr><td><p> [1] Huffingtonpost online (02/10/2012): "Doan Van Vuon, Vietnam Farmer, A National Hero After Shootout With Police"<br/><a class="refanch small" href=" " target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [3] RFA News online (10/04/2013): "Vietnam Punishes Officials for Botched Raid on Fish Farm"<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [4] BBC News online (02/04/2013): "Vietnam land eviction trial begins"<br/><a class="refanch small" href=" " target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [5] The Wall Street Journal online (05/04/2013): "Vietnamese Folk Hero Gets Five-Year Sentence"<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [6] online (27/03/2014): "Hero who fought forced evictions jailed and fined"<br/><a class="refanch small" href=" " target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [7] Inside Story online (23/03/2012): "Vietnam’s high-profile land dispute"<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p> [9] RFA News online (05/02/2015): "Vietnamese Seeking Justice Plan to Spend Tet in Hanoi"<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Other Documents</td><td><table><tr><td><p><strong>After the evictions</strong> Source:<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Farmers' solidarity protests</strong> Source:<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>police raids</strong> Source:<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr><tr><td><p><strong>Trial</strong> Source:<br/><a class="refanch small" href="" target="_blank">[click to view]</a></p></td></tr></table></td></tr></tbody></table></div></div><div class="horipane"><div class="title active">Meta Information</div><div class="content"><table class="table"><tbody><tr><td class="fld">Contributor</td><td>A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB)</td></tr><tr><td class="fld">Last update</td><td>16/07/2015</td></tr></tbody></table></div></div>