Political Trial Highlights Vietnam's Land Right Problem

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(VOA) - In Vietnam, the state owns the land and leases it to the people for a limited time. As the country’s economy has grown, the issue of who owns the rights to farm or develop land remains a difficult problem, with occasional protests over illegal seizures of land, otherwise known as “land grabs.” In Hanoi, the latest trial of land rights protesters highlights lingering issues with the system.

This week, a group of people gathered near a court on the outskirts of Hanoi to show their support at the appeal trial of four land rights activists who were arrested while protesting an alleged land grab earlier this year. They were sentenced to between 12 and 20 months for disturbing public order.

Both of 31-year-old Trinh Ba Phuong’s parents were on trial. Although the court reduced his father Trinh Ba Khiem (Trịnh Bá Khiêm)’s sentence by three months, he said he was very disappointed with the result. He said he believes the trial was a “tool for oppression and land grabs.” Phuong’s mother Can Thi Theu (Cấn Thị Thêu) was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

He said local authorities first announced plans to take the land in 2008. The compensation offered was too low, and 356 families have refused the payment. He said officials did not attempt to negotiate with the residents.

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