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Interpreting the Constitutional Debate Over Land Ownership in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2012–2013)

  • Toan LE (a1)

Abstract

In 2012–2013, the people of Vietnam participated in a lengthy process of public consultation to amend the constitution and land law. This article analyzes the approach that party leaders took during the 2013 constitutional consultation and law-making period as the leaders responded to submissions calling for radical reforms of constitutional and legal arrangements of land ownership. This analysis will provide insights into how, if at all, the discussion in 2012–2013 was different from previous discussions in relation to reforming the constitutional and legal arrangements of land ownership in Vietnam. The article argues that despite unprecedented consultation and discussion, party leaders did not intend to make substantive changes to land ownership.

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Footnotes

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Lecturer, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash Business School, Monash University. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for the feedback given to me. I am also grateful to Professors John Gillespie and Mark Sidel, Dr Bui Ngoc Son, Dr Nicola Charwat, Ms Narelle Aspery, Sunil Rao, and the AsJCL editors for reviewing my article. I also thank Professor Pip Nicholson, Professor Andrew Harding, and the presenters, moderators and participants of the “Constitutional Debate in Vietnam” conference held at the National University of Singapore for their valuable feedback on my presentation.

Footnotes

References

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1. Government of Vietnam, “Hơn 15 triệu lượt góp ý kiến cho Dự thảo sửa đổi Hiến pháp 1992 [Over 15 million submissions to amend 1992 Constitution]” Governmentnews (25 March 2013), online: Governmentnews <http://baodientu.chinhphu.vn/Tin-noi-bat/Hon-15-trieu-luot-gop-y-kien-cho-Du-thao-sua-doi-Hien-phap-1992/164855.vgp>; 2003 Land Law, No. 13/2003/QH11 (adopted 26 November 2003).

2. AUSAID, Vietnam: Land Administration Working Paper 4, (Canberra: Ausaid, 2000); LE, Toan, “Perspectives of land grabbing Vietnam” in Andrew HARDING and Connie CARTER, eds, Land Grabs in Asia: What Role for the Law? (London: Routledge, 2015) 150 at 158-164 [Le, “What Role for the Law”].

3. GILLESPIE, John, “Social Consensus and the Meta-Regulation of Land-Taking Disputes in Vietnam” (2014) 9(3) Journal of Vietnamese Studies 91 .

4. National Assembly, “Lấy ý kiến nhân dân về dự thảo Luật đất đai [Public consultation on the draft Land Law]” National Assembly (December 2012), online: Duthaoonline <http://duthaoonline.quochoi.vn/DuThao/Lists/TT_TINLAPPHAP/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=975>.

5. SIDEL, Mark, “Analytical Models for Understanding Constitutions and Constitutional Dialogue in Socialist Transitional States: Re-Interpreting Constitutional Dialogue in Vietnam” (2002) 6 Singapore Journal of International and Comparative Law 42 ; NGUYEN, Huong Thi, “Pursuing Constitutional Dialogue within Socialist Vietnam: The 2010 Debate” (2012) 13 (1) Australian Journal of Asian Law 1 .

6. Sidel, ibid at 59-89.

7. National Assembly, supra note 4.

8. 2013 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (adopted 28 November 2013).

9. 2013 Land Law, No. 45/2013/QH13 (adopted 29 November 2013).

10. 1992 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 25 April 1992) [1992 Constitution], art 17.

11. Seventy percent of all complaints received by government agencies relate to land matters and seventy percent of complaints on land matters concerned the use of state powers in relation to land that were recovered in the name of economic development. See Government of Vietnam, “70% đơn khiếu nại, tố cáo liên quan đến đất đai [70% of complaints relate to land]” Governmentnews (31 March 2015), online: Governmentnews <http://baochinhphu.vn/Hoat-dong-Bo-nganh/70-don-khieu-nai-to-cao-lien-quan-den-dat-dai/223712.vgp>; World Bank, Improving Land Acquisition and Voluntary Land Conversion in Vietnam (Hanoi: World Bank, 2009), online: World Bank <http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/178261468329368583/pdf/519420PNT0P1141yNote1Final10Nov091E.pdf> at 8. For a discussion of the phenomenon of land grabbing in Vietnam, see Le, “What Role for the Law”, supra note 2.

12. KANE, John, LOY, Hui-Chieh, and PATAPAN, Haig, “Introduction to the Special Issue: The Search for Legitimacy in Asia” (2010) 38(3) Politics & Policy 381 at 387 .

13. 1946 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 9 November 1946), art 12.

14. 1959 Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (adopted 31 December 1959), art 16.

15. TRAN, Phuong, “The Land Reform” (1965) 7 Vietnamese Studies 153 at 165 .

16. 1980 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (adopted 19 December 1980), art 12.

17. Ibid, art 19.

18. DUC, Huy, “Tinh Than Hien Phap [The Spirit of the Constitution]”, Sài Gòn Tiếp Thị [Saigon Marketing] (15 September 2007) at 16 .

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. 1992 Constitution, supra note 10.

22. Ibid, art 18.

23. KHNG, Russell Heng HiangThe 1992 Revised Constitution of Vietnam: Background and Scope of Changes” (1992) 14(3) Contemporary Southeast Asia 221 at 222 .

24. DUC, Huy, Ben Thang Cuoc – II Quyen Binh [The Winning Side – II Quyen Binh] (OsinBook Smashwords, 2012).

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. “Thế khó kiểm soát thị trường ngầm [Difficult To Control The Informal Market]” VietNamEconomy (17 September 2009), online: BatDongSan.Com.VN <http://batdongsan.com.vn/phan-tich-nhan-dinh/the-kho-kiem-soat-thi-truong-ngam-ar11432>; Le Nhung,“Quan Ly Dat Dai Long Leo Kho Kiem Soat Thi Truong Ngam [Lax Management of Land Makes it Difficult to Control Informal Market]” VietNamNet.VN (10 November 2011), online: VietnamNet.VN <http://vietnamnet.vn/vn/thoi-su/47827/quan-dat-dai-long-leo-kho-kiem-soat-thi-truong-ngam.html>.

29. Sidel, supra note 5.

30. Communist Party of Vietnam, The Collected Transcript of Proceedings from the National Party Congress Part I (Hanoi: Political Publisher, 2010) at 407 .

31. 1993 Land Law (adopted 14 June 1993), art 3.

32. Ibid, art 27.

33. Human Rights Watch, “Rural Unrest Since the Start of Doi Moi” (1997), online: Human Rights Watch <https://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/vietnm/Vietn97d-02.htm>.

34. For detailed analysis of the 2003 Land Law, see Le, “What Role for the Law”, supra note 2.

35. BBC, “Pitched battle over Vietnam farmland” BBC (17 January 2012), online: BBC <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-16571102>.

36. HIEBERT, Murray and NGUYEN, Phuong, “Land Disputes Stir Political Debate in Vietnam” Center for Strategic & International Studies (11 April 2013), online: Center for Strategic & International Studies <http://csis.org/publication/land-disputes-stir-political-debate-vietnam>.

37. HA, Le, “Doan Van Vuon sentenced [to] 5 years in prison” VietnamNet Bridge (5 April 2013), online: Vietnamnet Bridge <http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/society/70713/doan-van-vuon-sentenced-5-years-in-prison.html>. However, Vuon was released early in 2015.

38. See BBC, “Đoàn Văn Vươn ‘sẽ hành động như trước’ [Đoàn Văn Vươn will not change his action]” BBC (15 September 2015), online: BBC <http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2015/09/150902_doan_van_vuon_se_hanh_dong_nhu_truoc>.

39. LIPES, Joshua, “New Clashes in Land Disputes” Radio Free Asia (15 June 2012), online: Radio Free Asia <http://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/clashes-06152012152150.html>.

40. NHAN, Nghia, “Đại biểu Võ Hồng Phúc nói lời tâm huyết [Democratic discussion at the Eleventh National Party Congress: Delegate Vo Hong Phuc Said His Heartfelt Words]” Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [Law Ho Chi Minh City] (14 January 2011), online: Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh <http://phapluattp.vn/thoi-su/theo-dong/dai-bieu-vo-hong-phuc-noi-loi-tam-huyet-385498.html>.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid.

44. NHAN, Nghia, “Tranh luận sôi nổi về ‘công hữu tư liệu sản xuất chủ yếu’ [Intense Debate on ‘Public Ownership of the Means of Production’]” Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [Law Ho Chi Minh] (15 January 2011), online: Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh Luat <http://phapluattp.vn/thoi-su/theo-dong/tranh-luan-soi-noi-ve-cong-huu-tu-lieu-san-xuat-chu-yeu-388450.html>.

45. HANG, Thu, “Biểu quyết về ‘công hữu tư liệu sản xuất’ [Voting on the ‘Public Ownership of the Means of Production’]” Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh [Law Ho Chi Minh City] (19 January 2011), online: Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh <http://phapluattp.vn/thoi-su/theo-dong/bieu-quyet-ve-cong-huu-tu-lieu-san-xuat-385339.html>.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.

48. Government of Vietnam, “To Trinh Về Dự Thảo Sửa Đổi Hiến Pháp Năm 1992 [Outline of Draft Law to Reform the 1992 Constitution]”, Document no. 194/TTr-UBDTSĐHP, online: Ministry of Justice <http://moj.gov.vn/qt/cacchuyenmuc/ctv/news/Pages/to-trinh-du-thao-hien-phap.aspx?ItemID=4>.

49. Government of Vietnam, “To Trinh Ve Du Thao su Luat Dat Dai [Outline of Draft Law to Reform the Land Law]”, Document no. 222/TTr-CP, online: Duthaoonline <http://duthaoonline.quochoi.vn/DuThao/Lists/DT_DUTHAO_LUAT/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=528&TabIndex=2&TaiLieuID=783>.

50. Government of Vietnam, “Nghị Nguyết tổ chức lấy ý kiến nhân dân Dự thảo sửa đổi Hiến pháp 1992 [Resolution on Organizing to Gather Public Opinion in relation to the Draft Constitution Amending the 1992 Constitution]”, Resolution 38/2012/QH13, 28 November 2012; Government of Vietnam, “Nghị Nguyết của Ủy ban thường vụ Quốc hội Về việc tổ chức lấy ý kiến nhân dân đối với Dự thảo Luật đất đai (sửa đổi) [Resolution on Organizing to Gather Public Opinion in relation to the Draft Land Law Amending the 2003 Land Law]”, Resolution 563/NQ-UBTVQH13, 21 January 2013.

51. For full list of the members of the group, see Kiến Nghị 72, “Kiến Nghị Sữa Đổi Hiến Pháp 1992” [Petition 72, “Proposal to Amend the Constitution”] Boxitvn (14 April 2013), online: Boxitvn <http://boxitvn.blogspot.com/2013/01/kien-nghi-ve-sua-oi-hien-phap-1992.html>.

52. Ibid

53. Ibid.

54. Ibid.

55. Ibid.

56. “Nhân sỹ trí thức gửi bản kiến nghị sửa đổi Hiến pháp 1992 [Intellectuals hand over Petition 72]” Bao Moi [New Newspaper] (5 February 2013), online: Bao Moi <http://www.baomoi.com/nhan-sy-tri-thuc-gui-ban-kien-nghi-sua-doi-hien-phap-1992/c/10343640.epi> [“Intellectuals hand over Petition 72”].

57. NGUYEN, Vinh Trong, “Thư của Tướng Nguyễn Trọng Vĩnh gửi Quốc hội [Letter to the National Assembly]” Vutienson (23 September 2013), online: Vutienson <http://vutienson.blogspot.com/2013/10/thu-cua-tuong-nguyen-trong-vinh-gui.html>.

58. Ibid.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid.

62. Phuong Thuy, “GS Đặng Hùng Võ: Tôi thấy gai gai khi đọc quy định cưỡng chế thu hồi đất [Dang Hung Vo: I Feel Uncomfortable when Reading the State’s Land Eviction Power]” Lao Dong [Labour] (3 January 2014), online: Lao Dong <http://laodong.com.vn/bat-dong-san/gs-dang-hung-vo-toi-thay-gai-gai-khi-doc-quy-dinh-cuong-che-thu-hoi-dat-171394.bld>.

63. “Intellectuals hand over Petition 72”, supra note 56.

64. KERKVLIET, Benedict J Tria, “Governance, Development, and the Responsive–Repressive State in Vietnam” (2010) 37 (1) Forum for Development Studies 33 at 46 .

65. Ministry of Justice, “Report, Explanation, Collection of Opinion by the MOJ in Relation to the Draft Land Law (amended), Public Document no. 7057/BTP-PLDSKT (30 August 2012).

66. Ibid at 3, 10.

67. Ibid at 10.

68. Ibid at 4.

69. NGUYEN, Tu, “Sở hữu đất đai: ‘Dân không quan tâm!’ [People are not concerned about private land ownership]” VnEconomy (3 February 2012), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/20120308073322330P0C17/so-huu-dat-dai-dan-khong-quan-tam.htm>.

70. HO, Dang Hoa and MCPHERSON, Malcolm, “Land Policies for Social Development in Vietnam” (27 May 2010) 50–51, online: Harvard Kennedy School, Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation<http://ash.harvard.edu/files/vnm_landpolicypaper.pdf>.

71. Ministry of National Resource and Development, “Report to Explain, Accept the Opinions of the Ministry of Justice in Relation to the Project to Amend the Land Law”, Document no. 189/BC-BTNMT (4 September 2012).

72. NGUYEN, Tu, “Co Nen Cho So Huu Tu Nhan ve Dat Dai Bai 3 [Should Private Ownership of Land Be Recognized]”, Phap Luat HCMC [Law HCMC] (2 March 2011).

73. “Năm 2010 cũng chưa sửa Luật Đất đai” [Amending the Land Law will still not occur in 2010]” Thanh Niên News (5 June 2009), online: Thanh Nien <http://www.thanhnien.com.vn/news1/pages/200923/20090605003821.aspx>.

74. Government of Vietnam, “To Trinh Ve Du Thao Sua Doi Luat Dat Dai 2003 [Outline relating to the Draft Land Law to amend the 1992 Land Law]” Document no. 222/TTr-CP, online: Duthaoonline <http://duthaoonline.quochoi.vn/DuThao/Lists/DT_DUTHAO_LUAT/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=528&TabIndex=2&TaiLieuID=774>.

75. VU, Nguyen, “Sửa Luật Đất đai: Đại biểu - doanh nhân nghĩ gì? [Amending the Land Law: What the NA members are thinking?]” VnEconomy (20 November 2011), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/20121120031321328P0C17/sua-luat-dat-dai-dai-bieu-doanh-nhan-nghi-gi.htm>.

76. Ibid.

77. Ibid. The practice of “ask-give” refers to the expectation by state officials to receive informal payment or gift to carry out normal administrative functions, such as, for the leasing or allocation of land.

78. LE, Nguyen, “Thêm một buổi thảo luận Luật Đất đai trước ‘giờ G’ [Another debate session on the Land Law which went to the ‘G’ Hour]” VnEconomy (14 November 2013), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/bat-dong-san/them-mot-buoi-thao-luan-luat-dat-dai-truoc gio-g-20131113102751302.htm>.

79. Government of Vietnam, “To Trinh Ve Du Thao sua doi Hien Phap 1992 [Outline relating to the Draft Constitution to amend the 1992 Constitution]”, Document no. 194/TTr-UBDTSĐHP Section II, point 4.

80. Government of Vietnam, “To Trinh Ve Du Thao Sua Doi Luat Dat Dai 2003 [Outline relating to the Draft Constitution to amend the 2003 Land Law]”, Document no. so 302/TTr-CP.

81. Ibid, paragraph 1, page 3.

82. Government of Vietnam, “Instructions No 21-KL/TW Ket Luan Ban Chap Hanh Trung Uong Dang Khoa XI [Concluding Remarks of the Central Committee Session XI]”, Government of Vietnam (25 May 2012), online: Government of Vietnam <http://www.vinhphuc.gov.vn/ct/cms/Convert/phongchongtn/Lists/trunguong/View_Detail.aspx?ItemID=2>

83. Ibid, s 2, para 2.

84. Government of Vietnam, “Outline relating to the Draft Constitution to amend the 2003 Land Law”, supra note 80.

85. BBC, “TBT Trọng nói về sửa đổi Hiến pháp [General Secretary Trong talks about amending the Constitution]” BBC (26 February 2013), online: BBC <http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2013/02/130226_nguyenphutrong_constitution.shtml>.

86. BBC, “Ông Nguyễn Đình Lộc nói về Kiến nghị 72 [Nguyen Dinh Loc speaks on Proposal 72]” BBC (27 March 2013), online: BBC <http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2013/03/130323_nguyendinhloc_kiennghi72>. There are anecdotal suggestions that Nguyen Dinh Loc’s family members were harassed.

87. Personal interview with A, (10 February 2016).

88. Ibid.

89. LE, Nguyen, “Đề xuất bỏ phiếu kín vấn đề còn khác nhau về Hiến pháp [Proposed secret ballot on various issues still in debate about the Constitution]” VnEconomy (4 November 2013), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/thoi-su/de-xuat-bo-phieu-kin-van-de-con-khac-nhau-ve-hien-phap-20131103100819208.htm>.

90. LE, Nguyen, “Đề nghị giữ một loạt nội dung quan trọng như dự thảo Hiến pháp [Suggest to maintain the wording of a series of important issues related to the draft Constitution]” VnEconomy (5 November 2013), online: VnEconomy <http://vneconomy.vn/thoi-su/de-nghi-giu-mot-loat-noi-dung-quan-trong-nhu-du-thao-hien-phap-2013110511192132.htm>.

91. DUNG, Tien & PHUONG, Nam, “Quốc hội thông qua Hiến pháp sửa đổi [National Assembly passed Amended Constitution]” VN Express (28 November 2013), online: VN Express <http://vnexpress.net/tin-tuc/thoi-su/quoc-hoi-thong-qua-hien-phap-sua-doi-2916328.html>.

92. Ibid.

93. Anonymous, “Vietnamese face charges for protesting beach-blocking tourist project” Thanh Niên News (6 March 2016), online: Thanhnien News <http://www.thanhniennews.com/society/vietnamese-face-charges-for-protesting-beachblocking-tourist-project-59937.html>.

94. Ibid.

* Lecturer, Department of Business Law and Taxation, Monash Business School, Monash University. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer for the feedback given to me. I am also grateful to Professors John Gillespie and Mark Sidel, Dr Bui Ngoc Son, Dr Nicola Charwat, Ms Narelle Aspery, Sunil Rao, and the AsJCL editors for reviewing my article. I also thank Professor Pip Nicholson, Professor Andrew Harding, and the presenters, moderators and participants of the “Constitutional Debate in Vietnam” conference held at the National University of Singapore for their valuable feedback on my presentation.

Interpreting the Constitutional Debate Over Land Ownership in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2012–2013)

  • Toan LE (a1)

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