Contending views and conflicts over land In Vietnam's Red River Delta

TitleContending views and conflicts over land In Vietnam's Red River Delta
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsNguyễn_Văn_Sửu _
Secondary TitleJournal of Southeast Asian Studies
Key themesAccessToJustice, CivilSociety-Donors, MarginalisedPeople, Policy-law, Urban

This study offers an approach about the nature of peasants and the reasons for their political actions. It examines the views of different parties towards the question on how land should be owned, managed, used, by whom, for whose benefits, and uncovers as well as explains the resulting conflicts over land rights in the Red River Delta since decollectivisation. It postulates that the contending views among parties over decision-making, distribution, and holding of land rights, create dynamics for conflicts, which take place under the form of public resistance, in a number of communities.


Copyrighted journal article



Document Type

Journal Article


Overall relevance: 

This article provides a useful overview of the hottest land issue in Vietnam, which is the conversion of agricultural land to urban, industrial and other non-agricultural uses. This process involves the appropriation of land from smallholders through one of two means: state seizure in the case of land required for national security, public or collective purposes

Key Themes: 
  • Dispute resolution and access to justice - Corrupt administration of compensation and levels of compensation far below the market value of land has led to unrest. Demonstrations have confronted local authorities but have tended not to achieve outcomes favourable to those being dispossessed
  • Land zoning, planning, conversion and food security - Some figures suggest a conversion of agricultural land at a rate of approximately one percent of the total per annum. This land is among the most productive rice and intensive market gardening land available in Vietnam
  • Land dispossession/land grabbing - There are no official, reliable figures on the number of farmers dispossessed through the process of land conversion. However, various sources suggest that the numbers are in the hundreds of thousands of families, especially in areas close to urban centres. These also happen to be the more productive agricultural lands. Compensation is often corruptly administered, so that livelihoods are not properly compensated
  • Land rights recognition/formalization/titling/collective tenure - Although land was allocated to farmers and other individuals through the “red book” system following the 1993 Land Law, this does not give security of tenure if the state considers that it is in the public/national interest to convert land to other uses. Land can be reallocated in the name of national development
  • Agrarian change and land: Migration and labour - In principle, private and state users of appropriated land are supposed to assist dispossessed farmers to retrain for non-agricultural livelihoods and to employ the dispossessed in the economic activity for which land has been resumed. In practice, the extent of retraining has been very patchy, and few of those employed have come directly from the agricultural area affected by the new land uses
  • Land policy and land law - Land conversion and the associated transfer of rights from farmers to state or private sector users is a result of Vietnam’s Doi moi renovation policy toward outward-oriented market-based production. It is backed up by the continuing principles of ownership (by the people as a collective entity), management (by the state) and use (by individuals) under the constitution and under the 1993 and 2003 [and again 2013] land laws. Institutional approaches to dealing with land appropriation includes local Centres for Land Seizure and Compensation that are supposed to mediate the process in a fair manner
Research basis: 

This article builds on the author’s PhD thesis. The article itself draws mainly on existing Vietnamese and English language based literature. The article references fieldwork carried out in 2002 and 2007, but it does not go into detail in the nature of this fieldwork.