Indian Catholic News

Vietnam eviction victims reject compensation plan

War vets, churchmen and residents turfed out of Ho Chi Minh City homes say amount offered falls way short of market prices.

Christians and representatives of indigenous faiths pay a visit on Jan. 14 to people whose homes were destroyed by the government, consoling them and offering them gifts. (Photo courtesy of
Ho Chi Minh City: 

Priests, Vietnamese war veterans and low-income earners who claim to have had their land illegally seized this month have come out to condemn the government's latest financial assistance plans.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported on Jan. 13 that Tan Binh District in Ho Chi Minh City would be assisting those who lost a 4.8-hectare plot of farmland by paying them 7,055,000 dong (US$304) per square meter.

The district is also offering 12-18 million dong to everyone in its jurisdiction who had their crops damaged as a result of government-enforced evictions, the daily reported.

The victims will also receive vocational skills training and be eligible for bank loans that were previously out of reach, it said.

But critics, including Vietnamese-born Australian bishop Vincent Nguyen Long of Australia's Parramatta Diocese, have blasted the evictions, while others have dismissed the proposed aid package as being woefully inadequate.

District officials tore down 112 houses on the land, which was registered to 134 households in L?c H?ng Parish, on Jan. 4 and Jan. 8. One of the homes razed was operated by the church for disabled war veterans. Residents were reportedly given no prior warning.

Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, head of the Redemptorist-run Justice and Peace Office, said the financial assistance being offered is not fair compared to market prices, especially given the plot's proximity to the downtown area.

Apartments nearby that measure 60 square meters retail for up to 3.5-billion-dong ($151,000) apiece, or more than eight times as much, he said.

"There is some collusion among different interest groups," Father Thanh said.

He said government officials had been abusing their power by forcing victims to accept below-market rates without any negotiation.

Some officials were quoted as saying they only destroyed houses that lacked the proper building permits, rather than confiscating land.

Meanwhile, the authorities announced a detailed plan for schools and other public facilities on Jan. 12 many people fear will see them turfed out of their homes.

Father Thanh accused officials of illegally infringing on the legal properties of local people who have lived and cultivated their land since 1954, after they moved from the north fleeing early communist rule.

He urged victims to sue officials in a bid to seek compensate for their belongings, which he claims were damaged in the process of being evicted.

An attorney, who declined to be named, said the move suggests the government aims to evict people from their land by force, rather than destroy illegal houses.

He accused the authorities of lying to the public and entreated victims to seek legal assistance to safeguard their rights and properties.

The lawyer called on the public to make their opinions on this issue known and stage protests if necessary to demand answers.

Nguyen Thi Thai, who ran a small restaurant, said her 16-member family lived on the land for 65 years before the government rushed in to destroy their houses and belongings.

"They destroyed our livelihoods and they didn't care. It was shameful," said the 64-year-old, unable to hold back tears.

They must now pay 7 million dong a month to rent a house but the family has no source of income, she added.

Source: UCAN

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