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Norms and Practices in Contemporary Rural Vietnam

 | 
Christian Culas
, 
Văn Sửu Nguyễn

Chapter 1. A failed “success story” for Tourist Development Projects in Tam Dao: Gaps between Laws and their Application

Christian Culas

Texte intégral

Introduction

1The main objective of this paper is to describe and to understand the various relationships between villagers and local authorities through different tourism development projects in rural areas. These links, relationships, tensions, conflicts and various negotiation methods will bring to light how different groups of local actors can use, and sometimes abuse rules and norms, and even the law, to their advantage. Based on one specific case study, we will analyse the main sources of tension and conflict. Furthermore, we will examine Vietnamese administrative procedures and the possibility for people to communicate with authorities.

2This research paper is based on the case of the village of Đền Thõng, which is the centre of the four tourism projects included in this study, and on four neighbouring villages within the Đại Đình commune. Despite the geographic and demographic limits of this research work, we consider that the issues observed within this site are not isolated cases, and that they reveal more general problems concerning the relationship between the population and administrative bodies in rural Vietnam. Our second objective is to show that the detailed situations exposed herein (with) can be thought of as revealing the more or less common relationship patterns between the population and local authorities.

  • 15 Fieldwork data has been collected in July 2008 and September 2009 during the Training Workshop “Ant (...)

3The research site15, Đền Thõng village (Đại Đình commune, Tam Đảo district, Vĩnh Phúc province), is located on the Tam Đảo massif piedmont. The famous Tây Thiên complex of Buddhist temples belongs to Đền Thõng village territories. Đền Thõng is an agricultural village, in a buffer zone within Tam Đảo National Park, that has benefitted from a significant source of income from tourist services over the last ten years. On their own initiative, either with very little or no support from the government, local farmers have progressively been trying to transform their professional activities in order to integrate an increasing number of tourism services and trade.

4Between 2005 and 2013, the government, the Communist Party Congress and Vĩnh Phúc provincial authorities have planned to organize four tourism projects centred on the Tây Thiên temples and Đền Thõng village. These projects were, are and will be organized on an individual case basis, and thus take on various sizes and forms in order to suit different objectives. These projects have had a profound impact on the economic and social life of local villagers.

5The idea of writing this paper stemmed directly from situations we observed in July 2008 and September 2009 in Đền Thõng village. Indeed, the villagers stand at the crossroads of several important issues that are key in understanding the changes in Vietnamese society since the reforms of the Đổi Mới renovation. Firstly, these development projects are either entirely or partly State-run as part of a series modernization programmes taking place in rural Vietnam. Here, we are trying to understand how large-scale development projects at national or provincial levels can integrate social, economic and relational local practices. Other issues that arise involve preparations for such projects, such as feasability surveys, studies on their eventual social, economic and environmental impact and the prominence given to local people. As these projects require a significant degree of communication between the various administrative bodies and the villagers who are directly affected by them, we will try to understand the mode of contact, exchange and perhaps dialogue and negotiation between them. Finally, the logical continuation of the previous question, through the degree of communication and exchange that can be observed around tourism development projects, leads to asking what forms of governance can become more effective and what is the role of civil society groups in the dialogue between macro (State, province) and micro (village, families) levels?

6For methodological reasons, this paper includes a long descriptive section which will allow the reader to enter the local context, sometimes complex and multifaceted, and will raise the villagers' positions on various projects, particularly those in which compensation is offered for expropriated land and for future insurance. Then, we will analyze in detail the relationship between villagers, government administration and private companies involved in these projects. In the first chapter, we will introduce the main social and economic components of the village. In the second, we will give a summary of the four projects, focusing on their impact on village land management and the panel of compensation put forward by local authorities. In the third, we will analyse some major communication and understanding problems between villagers and local authorities. In the fourth, we will show the main possibilities for villagers to make demands and complaints to have their rights recognized, and the villagers' reaction to this issue. In the fifth, we will explain some key elements in understanding the current conflict between villagers and local authorities. In the sixth, we will show how the problems experienced by this village are part of more widespead issues on the hierarchy of norms and local governance. In the conclusion, we will try explain why, after a variety of five-year relationships with different administrations and despite a majority of villagers supporting the implementation of new projects and the transformation of their professional activities, many are now opposing them as the conditions in which they are being established do not appear positive and do not represent enough security for the future.

I-Temples, Farmers and Tourist projects: are these the key ingredients in the making of a success story?

1-Den Thong village and Tay Thien Temples

7Đền Thõng is one of the 15 rural villages within Đại Đình commune, in Tam Đảo district, Vĩnh Phúc province, and is located 80km North of Hà Nội City. The population is made up of 699 habitants (160 families), of which 60% are ethnic Kinh (Vietnam's national ethnic group) and 40% are ethnic Sán Dìu (Miao-Yao linguistic family). Inter-ethnic marriages between them are highly common. For this study, there is no significant difference between Sán Dìu and Kinh farmers. The projects affect all lands.

  • 16 In 2009-2010, one euro = 25,000 VND.

8According to the 2007 commune data, 70 families (38% of the total population) are involved in regular services and commercial activities that are directly and indirectly related to tourism. During the annual religious festival, almost all the villagers work for tourist purposes. The average income for Đền Thõng is 6.5 million VND16 per person per year. At the commune level, the average income is 5.5 million VND per person per year. In the village, the number of families "officially classified" as "poor" is estimated at 9.4%, amply less than at the commune level, which is 21.5%.

  • 17 Culas and Tessier, 2009.

9Comparisons between income, percentage of poor households and living conditions in Đại Đình commune and Đền Thõng village clearly show that the economic situation is much better in Đền Thõng than Đại Đình17 as a whole. However, not a single main road goes through this village and means of communication are poor. As a result, special means must be taken to go there.

  • 18 Literally "Temple of East Heaven National Mother".
  • 19 With the Dalat Truc Lam Monastery and Truc Lam Yen Tu, Tây Thiên is one of three biggest monasterie (...)
  • 20 Decision 1371/QD-VHTT, 3rd August 1991.

10This village is located on the buffer zone, in the western part of Tam Đảo National Park. Located 30km from Tam Đảo city, the Đền Thõng-Tây Thiên site is well-known for its pagoda, beautiful forests, streams, waterfalls, and grottoes. From the centre of the village in the National Park, a mere 5km trail along the river takes one to Tây Thiên Quốc Mẫu Temple18, at the height of a complex of several Buddhist temples including Thiền Viện Trúc Lâm Tây Thiên, a famous centre of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism19 and many pagodas in the mountain. This complex was classified as a "National Historic and Cultural Heritage" site by the Ministry of Culture and Information20.

  • 21 Otto, 2006, p. 4.

Tây Thiên “remarkable Bouddhist temples”
The site, with its temples and pagoda, situated in a valley, counts among the most meaningful places for Buddhism in Vietnam. Tây Thiên is located northwest to Chat Dau Valley in the Tam Đảo National Park area. The site contains 4 temples and pagodas, situated a beautiful valley with a river and a waterfall. Tây Thiên is known to be the source area for Buddhism in Vietnam. The whole area has a size of approximately 250 ha.
The valley and its temples can be visited on a hiking trail within 6 hrs walk (including return to the entrance). The trail is approximately 5 Km long (one way) and easily accessible because of its hiking trail with natural stone pavement and stairs at the steeper parts.
During the period between February and April (the first two months of the Lunar Calendar), the site is visited by up to 1000 visitors per day, who are coming for the Festival. This event is celebrated according to the Lunar calendar. Tây Thiên is a wellknown location for fulfilling wishes, which are addressed to the temples
21.

  • 22 March 6th 1996, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 136/TTg. On June 15th 1996, Tam Đảo National (...)
  • 23 For example, the book Vietnam's Famous Pagodas (originally in Vietnamese) published in 1995 by Vo V (...)

11Before 1995-1996, Đền Thõng was a quiet agricultural village with some complementary economic activities centred on the mountain forest in the eastern side of the territory and some seasonal migrations for work. 1996, the date of Tam Đảo National Park's creation22, marked the beginning of the first religious tourists coming to visit the modest and difficult to access Tây Thiên Quốc Mẫu Temple23 at an altitude of 530m. Since then, some local families have started to organize part of their space and time to provide services, religious materials (incense, candles, flowers, votive objects, etc.), food and beverage, especially for pilgrimages that take place within the first two months of the Lunar calendar.

  • 24 In this specific context the notion of "culture" refers to specific social standards applied first (...)

Limits of Official Data
Official data on the economic and social activities of the commune's People’s Committee are not perfectly reliable for two reasons. First, data collectors are not experts, but rather civil servants, nurses, and local teachers, who are often poorly trained, provided with few tools, and almost no methodology. They do, however, collect required data willingly in order to provide the People's Committee with information to draft reports. Second, these reports are written with targeted objectives. Party instructions, as well as those of the province and district, are sometimes divergent or even contradictory. These reports are used to prove good results have been achieved at the economic and “cultural
24” level, which can provide access to the status of “cultural family”, then “cultural village” and “cultural commune”. These reports can also be useful during periods of difficulty or of dynamic growth in allowing the commune to obtain aid and other developmental support from the province. These reports are written with two goals in mind: showing higher authorities that the commune has “good results” and highlighting the difficulties in obtaining development grants. All these reasons show that the contents of these reports are " oriented " and therefore must be used cautiously after a critical reading and contextualization. Without detailed knowledge of the situation, it is impossible to interpret these reports responsibly and effectively.

2-Agriculture and tourism: income security and opportunities

12We will be studying the local situation on a more descriptive level based on survey data and opinion polls. Interviews were carried out with a variety of people ranging from the vice-president of the People’s Committee of Đại Đình to the itinerant vendors who are regularly pursued by the police, and also include several officials from the village of Đền Thõng, religious leaders and laymen of different temples, the majority of store owners with shops leading up to the temple, the Director of Hotel Văn Hóa, and of course the many villagers who have been " expropriated " for different projects. The objective is to understand the reasons and constraints of the development of tourism in this rural area that lies far from main roads.

13The Đền Thõng village economy is organized around three different complementary activities. The primary source is agriculture (rice, livestock, vegetables, charcoal production, tea, and alpine medicinal plants). The second source of income comes from the influx of cash from the many migrants such as masons, carpenters, and an increasing number of factory workers. The third source of income comes from tourism-related activities: the sale of religious goods, food and beverage, and a delivery service for pilgrim offerings along the 5km path up the mountain to Đền Thương temple. This last activity is physically demanding and poorly paid. It is therefore handed over to the peasants in the outlying villages of Đền Thõng.

14Đền Thõng is the district's main attraction after Tam Đảo city. The Zen Monastry and Meditation Institute of Trúc Lâm Tây Thiên and Tây Thiên pagoda and temples network offer an unique cultural, tourist and natural potential, especially for religious pilgrims during the first two months of the Lunar calendar (February to April). Nevertheless, this famous religious spot is deserted the rest of the year. The main difference between Đền Thõng and other villages in the proximity of Tây Thiên is their capacity to generate significant yet irregular income from tourist services since the mid-1990s.

15On the one hand, in the interviews carried out, those responsible for Đại Đình commune’s People Committee and Đền Thõng village regard the current economic transformation of Đền Thõng village in a positive angle, giving us figures on the income per inhabitant, the very low percentage of "poor" households, and highlighting the fact that 100% of households are made of brick and that there is at least one motorbike per family, etc.

16On the other hand, farmers and families who engage in mixed activities (agriculture and tourism) clearly outlined other complex elements of reality. Each family emphasized the economic difficulties and the lack of confidence in the future of the area's economy.

17Many families underlined their current economic and social difficulties by enumerating the family members who worked outside the village and the commune. They thus emphasized that despite having a slightly higher income thanks to tourism, they still had to migrate to find jobs.

  • 25 Socio-economic Development Report 2006–2007, Đại Đình commune”, 2008.

18There are many reasons to migrate, with commune services ranked as the main factors in their decision to leave (Collectif 200825).

  • 26 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009.

19Among the important factors highlighted by the villagers are the "lack of good farm land" and the "low yields of local crops", which together are economically unprofitable. The second factor is related to the lack of investment or the inability to develop secondary economic activities such as raising livestock, growing medicinal herbs, or creating small businesses. The third is characterized by the more or less forceful rejection of rural lifestyles. This stems from the specific position of migrants with diplomas from urban institutions as well as those who have spent many years in an urban context and who only return to their villages a few days each year. They often return for the lunar New Year holidays or for large family events such as weddings, construction of new homes, or funerals26.

  • 27 Culas and Tessier, 2009.

20Personal accounts, as told by families and data colected from the 2008 socio-economic development report, contrasts with the consensual discourse held by local authorities who insist on the good economic performance of the village. For many farmers, the future is very dark and uncertain: locally, employment opportunities are scarce, there are too few outlets for their crops, and there no possibilities for career advancement27. This is why these economic migrations are thought to be vital. Even though migration is short-term with long periods back in the home village, especially to participate in the economic activities of the festival in the first months of the year, its tendency is on the rise.

21We will see further along this study that the different tourist projects have diminished the available surface of farm lands to such an extent that villagers have stated that if there is not a massive number of non-agricultural jobs created very quickly, dozens if not hundreds of families may have to migrate to survive in these new conditions. Migrants work as construction labourers in Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh city, as well as in factories surrounding the major cities. Families have stated that a large part of their earnings is sent back to family members in the village to help them directly. Many families hope that the tourism projects will soon materialize so that their husbands, brothers and children can come back to live in their home villages. Since 2000, in addition to the flow of seasonal migrants that are a part of village tradition, long-term migration has become more and more common.

  • 28 Culas and Tessier, 2009, p. 312 and interviews made in 2008.

22There is no doubt that tourism, in different aspects, contributes to improve the quality of life in Đèn Thõng village and a few surrounding villages because Tây Thiên temple and its festival attract thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year. But several Đèn Thõng villagers said, "profits from tourism vary depending on the kind of activities and location." The first shopkeepers, who bought their land and built shop in 1994, three years after the Tây Thiên temples were classified as a National Historic and Cultural Heritage site (1991), took up the best business shops along the path leading from the valley until Tây Thiên Temple. Newcomers do not have a choice in terms of location to set-up shop and must deal with the increase of land price28. This new form of local competition has started to create strong tensions between villagers because of the pressure on land acquisition for small business developments. Several times during interviews, villagers emphasized this new problem and did not have any solution to reduce the tensions.

23We made the following notes from the interviews and economic reports to allow an overview of the contrasting economic situation of the village: in the claims made by local leaders, the economic results are good and the future seems assured; however, according to local villagers, their life is difficult, sources of income are limited, and the future does not only seem uncertain, it looks darker. We will see below that these contrasts in opinion between official discourses (relay of national instructions and propaganda) and information given by villagers (with questions unanswered) are probably a sign of profound disagreement on how to understand the economic reality and the future of local development projects.

3-Why tourism services have not yet become the main activities of Den Thong villagers?

24All tourist development projects planed in Đền Thõng are based the same hypothesis: because the project requires a big part of the agricultural and housing lands, villagers should invest in tourism services. This implicitly assumes that these new activities could be profitable for local families, and that the villagers should accept this major change. We will see below that this assumption is based on the authorities' low level of awareness of social and economic realities in the villages, and no surveys have been conducted to assess the profitability of these new activities and to record the will of the people to participate in various projects.

25Now, let’s look at how, despite the supposedly high tourism potential, only some families have converted their business to tourism. From fieldwork data, we have defined three main reasons.

26Firstly, it is because tourist activities in Đền Thõng-Tây Thiên are only concentrated in two months per year (March-April). Some texts from the provincial administration tout the qualities of this site and its high potential of attraction, and refer to the passage of 2000 pilgrims per day to make offerings to the three temples in the mountains. However, they neglect to mention that these streams of pilgrims and visitors are concentrated within a very short period. To quantify these statements, we made a graph from the Hotel Văn Hóa’s “Customers Register”, the only hotel in Đền Thõng, from May 2006 to April 2007.

Number of customers at Hotel Văn Hóa (2006-2007)

Number of customers at Hotel Văn Hóa (2006-2007)

Source: Culas and Tessier, 2009, p. 313

27Customers during the months of March and April represent 83% of the yearly total. The most active three months are March, April and May, which is 89.4% of the annual total. It should be noted that most pilgrims and visitors do not spend the night in Đền Thõng, but in absence of other forms of quantitative data (there are no records of the numbers of pilgrims and visitors, no official parking tickets), the above figures best help to explain why the villagers insist on saying that tourism activities do not thrive all year round. In Đèn Thõng, the tourist trade is thus merely one among other components of the local economy, after agriculture and the influx of money sent by migrants.

  • 29 Interview in 2008.

28We know that this situation is common to many seasonal attractions in rural areas. In this context, the "sustainable development" of commercial activities in the village is not guaranteed. Local practices and interviews show that most Đền Thõng households who left agricultural work to become fully involved in the tourist trade are failing29. Many reasons can explain these failures: lack of experience in tourism services, investment in a non-profitable store in brick, irregularity of tourists, etc. But these failures are particularly hard for households that have lost their farmland by "expropriation" in 2005 and 2007 for the development of Tây Thiên tourist Project 2 Phase 1 (51 ha). Pressure on land acquisition at the village level is high, and today the “expropriated” households do not have the possibility to rent or buy "quality" farmland in the vicinity, as they were able to do before these projects. All of the above helps to understand the farmers’position vis-à-vis the expropriation of large areas of farmland.

  • 30 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009.

29Secondly, due to the number of shops selling ritual and religious material and food and beverage being already significant and all of them being located in the best business locations on the trail leading to the temples, new shops, on less strategic places, would have less income. According to their experiences, people say that establishing new stalls on the pilgrimage route may reduce the income of former traders and bring about new difficulties30.

  • 31 General Statistics Office of Vietnam, http://www.vietnamtourism.com/f_pages/news/index.asp?loai=2 (...)

30The third reason is that since 1998, when the first shop in concrete and bricks was built, every year the number of tourists has not been regular. For example, between 1997 and 1998, there was an 11% decrease. Between 2002 and 2003, because of the global SARS epidemic, the decrease was around 16%. However, tourist activities increased by 17.8% between 2006 and 2007. But between 2008 and 2009, we notice a decrease of 11%. These figures for the number of tourists for the whole of Vietnam31 give us an idea of the unpredictable variations that may affect this site. They can also show how difficult it is for local shopkeepers to put their trust in an activity such as tourism to become the family's main, and sometimes only, source of income.

  • 32 For details, see Chap. V – Some keys to understand the current tensions between villagers and local (...)

31The above reasons show that the villagers see tourism only as a complementary activity, because of the short period in which the pilgrimages take place and the uncontrollable movements from one year to the other. Most villagers are interested in investing in tourism services, but for the majority, they are not worth abandoning farming altogether, which has throughout the years provided a modest but very stable income. However, the expropriation of land belonging to families for projects has deprived them of 80% of their irrigated rice fields. The choices available to them are limited. Some try to find alternatives between rice cultivation and tourism activities at 100%. This is the case with wild pig and porcupine farms. But by participating in the state’s interests, they can receive state grants, because the goal for this region is to “develop tourism on a massive scale32”. Many times during interviews, villagers said they did not understand the state’s stubbornness and the fact that local authorities are pushing so strongly to move solely towards tourism. The villagers try proposals to diversify their income with fruits and flowers grown from domestic or wild areas (orchids) and with medicinal plants, but their demands do not reflect the interests of the state. The smoke-and-mirrors nature of this tourism scheme and the lack of study in these projects’profitability are preventing other possibilities for integrated and sustainable development from taking shape, even when they are at the initiative of the villagers themselves.

II-A brief history of local projects in Den Thong village

32Between 2005 and 2010, Đền Thõng village received three development projects, with the second project being organized in two different phases. We will make a short introduction to each project with the key elements (technical, financial, economic, social and legal implications) necessary to understand them and to reveal how control over land changes over time.

Poster of the Tây Thiên temples complex (Photo: Team Tam Dao Summer School 22/09/2009).

1-Project 1: Building a parking lot in the heart of the rice fields (2005-2006)

  • 33 Pháp Lý 09/2009. One sào = 360m². 9.843.000 VND/sào = 394 euro/sào.
  • 34 Decision NO 226/QĐ.

33Project 1 is entitled “Construction of a parking lot in Đền Thõng”. From October-November 2005, 1.05ha of terrain was purchased from 38 families at the request of the Tam Đảo district People’s Committee and the Đại Đình commune People’s Committee. The land represented Đền Thõng's irrigated rice fields and produced 2 harvests a year. Filling and grading of the lot took place very quickly so that the car park would be functional for the Inauguration of the Meditation centre and the Zen Monastery of Thien Truc Lam Tay, on November 27th 2005. In May 2005, at a formal meeting, commune and village authorities announced the recovery of 10554.7 square meters of land, which was to be allocated to private company Bình Minh for the construction and operation of car parks at Đền Thõng. According to the meeting announcement, each household with land in the recovered area would be compensated with 9,843,000 VND/sào33, vocational training, exemption from registration fees for educational purposes and financial assistance for students. Vĩnh Phúc Province's People's Committee published the Official Decision34 concerning the operation of land recovery for the development of tourism activities on January 25th 2006, i.e. three months after the implementation, construction, and economic development of the parking lot. We will see how the allocation of "reclaimed land" before the official provincial decision would constitute the core of a protracted conflict.

“Eight feet tree” front of Đền Thõng temple (Source: C. Culas 21/09/2009)

  • 35 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009, and Pháp Lý, 09/2009.
  • 36 Interviews made in 2009.

34To buy these lands, intermediaries of the Bình Minh Company have met many difficulties. Here are the main reasons that we have collected from villagers. Some families accepted their proposals easily because they have other lands. Others hesitated but were not given time to think it through, because authorities, sometimes with the help of the police35, pushed them to sign, while others refused because this is their best land for rice production. Facing farmers that were too hesitant, intermediaries of Bình Minh Company told them “this is a project supported by the People’s Committee of Vĩnh Phúc Province and Tam Đảo district36”. As a result, many farmers ended up accepting out of respect towards an official adminstrative decision.

2-Project 2 Phase 1: Extension of the tourist area to 51 ha, resulting in the village centre being consumed (2007-2009)

  • 37 The 30ha announced in the media does not include the roads and empty spaces of the central part of (...)
  • 38 Khu trung tâm lễ hội Tây Thiên”
  • 39 Map reproduced in Otto, 2006, p. 46. We have not presented it here because of the poor quality of t (...)

35Project 2 Phase 1 began in 2007 and was extended over a two-year period. Its goal was to build a complex for spiritual tourism over 51.1ha37 of land named «The Famous site of Tây Thiên – Tam Đảo – Vĩnh Phúc38». The project went well beyond the central area of the village of Đền Thõng. A development map on both sides of the river Suối Trường Sinh was produced in 2006. It went more than 3km from the temple in the village of Đền Thõng, above the Đền Thượng through the “Silver Waterfall”. On the map, we can see many solid structures, probably old and new stores39.

  • 40 505 Euros/sào.

36All the land purhased or recovered belonged to the village of Đền Thõng, with the majority of the best rice fields disappearing under roads and buildings. More than 60 families were forced to sell their land at a compensatory rate of 12.6 million VND/sào40 Villagers were promised compensation in paddy, tourism training courses for themselves and their children, exemption from registration fees for educational purposes and financial assistance for students, since they would no longer be able to live from farming. The project is under the administrative responsibility of the Tam Đảo district People’s Committee, while the Lạc Hồng Company is in charge of building and operating the site.

37This project has had a significant impact on productive activities and household economics due to the expropriation of rice fields and the ensuing prohibition to farm them. This new context forced villagers to participate more actively in tourism whenever possible or to migrate to other regions where more stable work was available.

General map of the "Tây Thiên-Tam Đảo-Vinh Phuc Famous Site" 2007-2009, total area of 51.1 ha. (Source C. Culas 07/2008)

  • 41 Otto, 2006, p. 42.

38One of the main differences between Project 1 and Project 2 Phase 1 is the creation in 2006 of the “Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board” whose intension is to develop ecotourism in co-operation with Tam Đảo National Park and the Buffer Zone Management Project (TDMP)41.” This initiative carried the promise for better functioning projects and especially greater communication between local populations and authorities. We will see a little later that the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board follows the top-down management logic most often seen in Vietnam.

3-Project 2 Phase 2: Tourist complex zone of 163 ha over four villages (2009-2011)

  • 42 Dự án đầu tư xây dựng phát triển khu trung tâm lễ hội Tây Thiên”.
  • 43 baotuyenquang.com.vn Theo VNN 06/12/2009.
  • 44 1264 Euros/sào. The cost of land according to their status has been published on 27/07/2009 by «Dec (...)
  • 45 Decision NO 2279/QD-UBND, 27/07/2009: "Approval of the general plan of compensation, support and se (...)

39The Project 2 Phase 2 has officially been designated as the “Development Projects for Construction in the Central Area for the Tây Thiên Festival42”. It involves the building of a tourism complex providing spiritual, cultural and leisure activities year-round. The duration of the construction project is scheduled to last two years (2009-2011). Four villages in the commune of Đài Dinh will be included in the project area: Đền Thõng, Sơn Đình, Ấp Đồn, Đồng Lính. The total project area is 163 ha43. Đền Thõng village is the central area in the project and 131.8 ha of agricultural land, houses and businesses will be expropriated. The rate of compensation provided goes up to 31.6 million VND/sào44. The official decision of Vĩnh Phúc province’s People’s Committee45 involves the moving and relocation of 163 households and 800 people. Some households lost 80% of their productive land, their homes, their businesses and their cemeteries. 50.005m² for resettlement will be reserved, but no information on surface areas for residential and commercial purposes has been given. The precise location of new houses and shops has not yet been shown. Many key issues arise in daily papers. Despite the villagers’repeated requests from the commune, district and provincial officials do not provide them with answers. This phase of the project is under the administrative responsibility of Vĩnh Phúc province’s People’s Committee. The construction and operation of the site is entrusted to the Lạc Hồng Company.

40According to the provincial decision of 27/07/2009, the schedule for the implementation of the work is as follows:

  • 8/2009: Publishing the Decision of the general plan for compensation from those who have recovered the land

  • 9/2009: Promulgating the Decision of land recovery and doing a detailed census of land and property

  • 12/2009: Checking and approving the compensation plan details

41For our study, it is interesting to note that the Inauguration of the official opening session of the Đền Thõng-Tây Thiên cable took place on December 5th 2009 (see illustration below). Thus, the early stages of construction of Project 3 (Cable car system and more) will take place even before the compensation plan for Project 2 Phase 2 has been “checked and approved”. As Project 2 Phase 2 and Project 3 use basically the same areas of land expropriated, it is very likely that works (05/12/2009) have commenced before the whole legal process has been completed (late December 2009). This specific issue is one of the main causes of tensions between villagers and authorities. The first reason for these tensions being: the project starting before the official opening date is considered by authorities as "out of regulations promulgated in the official decisions." Below, we discuss in detail the case of land expropriation in the parking lot in November 2005, whose "formal decision of expropriation" was only received in January 2006.

Second temple (Đền Cậu) along the trail. In 2011-2012, a cable station will be built here at an altitude of 120 m. (Source: C. Culas 21/09/2009)

General map "Development Projects for Construction in the Central Area for the Tây Thiên Festival" 2009-2013, total area 163ha (including the surface of Project 2 Phase 2). (Source: N.H. Manh, 22/09/2009)

4-Project 3: Tay Thien Cableway and Tourist complex area for 170 ha on four villages (2009-2013)

  • 46 http://www.baovinhphuc.com.vn/front-end/index.php?type=ARTICLE&fuseaction=DISPLAY_SINGLE_ARTICLE (...)

December 5th 2009: Opening cerenony of Tây Thiên cableway project.
“Comrades: Trịnh Đình Dũng, member of Party Central Committee, Secretary; Nguyễn Ngọc Phi, Deputy Secretary of Provincial Committee, president of province’s People’s Committee; Phùng Quang Hùng, member of Standing Provincial Party Committee, Permanent Vice-Chairman of province’s People’s Committee and delegates participating in inaugurating the construction of the cultural centre and festivals Tây Thiên cableway project.” (Source: Vĩnh Phúc Province official website, Quang Nam
46)

  • 47 Trung tâm văn hóa lễ hội Tây Thiên và dự án cáp treo lên khu di tích thắng cảnh Tây Thiên”, from h (...)

42Project 3 is called “Tây Thiên Cultural Centre Festival and Cable Car Project for the Relics of the Famous Site of Tây Thiên.”47. The opening cerenony of the Tây Thiên cableway was held on December 5th 2009 with in the presence of important personalities from the country and the region. This project is under the administrative responsibility of Vĩnh Phúc Province People's Committee. The investments come from the State budget and the Lac Hong Company is responsible for operating the site.

The main differences between Project 2 Phase 2 and Project 3 are :

    • 48 Here, Mẫu (“Mother”), in the religious and mythical context, as in Tây Thiên Quốc Mẫu Temple (liter (...)

    The project’s thematic focuses on a cultural festival and the relics of the Tây Thiên temples – this guidance is summarized by the slogan: «Đến với Phật, về với Mẫu» ("Come to the Buddha, return to the Mother48”).

  1. The construction of a cable car to reach the temple that lies above, Đền Thượng (see illustration “Main entrance”), with three intermediate stations to reach the temples of Đền Cậu and Đền Cô and the "Silver Waterfall”

    • 49 http://tinmoi.phanvien.com/338/vinh-phuc-260-ty-dong-cho-cap-treo-tay-thien.html
    • 50 Around 21.88 million euros. http://tinmoi.phanvien.com/338/ vinh-phuc-260-ty-dong-cho-cap treo-tay- (...)

    The programming of the project is different in time.
    The total area of the project is 170 ha
    49. The total project costs amount to 547 billion VND50.

  • 51 vietnamnet. vn, 05/12/2009.
  • 52 19.28 million Euros.

43There are some contradictions between the different sources of information on Project 3. Step 1 (2009-201051) mobilized 482 billion VND52 for the Tây Thiên cable (2400m long), for the cultural centre for festivals and for resettlement areas for expropriated inhabitants.

  • 53 Official website of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport.

44Step 1 of this project will see constructions over 27.73 ha, with 1.73 ha devoted specifically for the cableway with 3 intermediate stations53. The most important part of the cable will be inside Tam Đảo National Park. Works concretely started in December 2009 and will be completed in 2011. French company Poma will build the cable.

  • 54 vietnamnet. vn, 05/12/2009.

45However, we could not find any sources giving financial details or surface estimates for Step 2 (2011-201254). We only know that the province wants to increase tourism and administrative services, such as postal services and banking, and develop a rural market.

46It is surprising that Step 1 will develop over an area of 27.73 ha and will utilize 482 billion VND, while the development of the 146.27 ha remaining will use only 65 billion VND. Step 1 has 16% less surface area yet uses 88% more of the budget.

  • 55 According to official website of Vĩnh Phúc province: http://tnmtvinhphuc.gov.vn/index.php?nre_vp=Ne (...)

47We have also noted that Project 3 of the draft no longer involves construction such as the building of hotels, restaurants, spas, etc. It was precisely around this infrastructure and its potential demand for staff that villagers whose possessions have been expropriated hoped to gain from. But again, official documents and communications made by local authorities do not let the villagers have a clear vision of their future and nor of the opportunities for mass conversion (163 families) to tourism services55.

48Villagers interviewed in 2008 and 2009 only have vague information on current projects. They say the authorities and the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board do not inform them of anything. Only a few people have seen project map of 163 ha – Project 2 Phase 2 (see illustration) but without understanding how the project will be organized in terms of space and time.

49For example, Mr. T.V.S. from Đền Thõng, one of the interviewees, said in September 2009:

50Since 2006, I am opposed to the project of the parking lot and other larger ones, because there are legal problems. I have discussed these problems with my family, my neighbours and my friends in the village. I was directly threatened with being arrested by the district police if I did not stop rallying people against the project. I heard of a big project on the river Suối Trường Sinh which descends from the Valley of the Temples: a 70m high dam with an artificial waterfall and pass underneath the road, there is a lake with a bridge, with same design of the Perfume Pagoda…”

51Rumours or relevant information?

52Among official documents, the "Detailed Planning for buildings (at 1/2000e scale), central area for Tây Thiên festivals, Project plan to use land" map (see illustration) dated July 2009, signed by provincial, district and communal authorities, points out the creation of an island in the northern lake that is 400m wide by 450m long (18ha.), with a bridge for access. The development on the river Suối Trường Sinh does not appear on the maps that we have obtained.

53In September 2009, we also met a geometer team that was laying landmarks for future construction. When asked what will be built here or there, they said they did not know the specific objective of their work, and were not aware of the cable car. They have obviously been instructed not to give information on the project.

54Project 3 is probably an extension or transformation of Project 2 Phase 2, but the types of planned construction and timings are different. We do not have access to official documents of Project 3, such as administrative decisions and a map of how the land shall be used.

III-Sources of tension and conflicts between local administration and villagers

55A synthesis of the tension and conflicts will help us to have an overview of the situation.

56In 2005, 1.05 ha of the best paddy fields were expropriated without official permission. In 2007, these expropriations reached 51 ha in the heart of the village, and farmers are still waiting in vain for the infrastructure (restaurants, hotels, tourist information centre, etc.) and what would be given in compensation for the deadweight losses due to the sale of their land. Until now (March 2010) nothing has been done. No precise information has been given, no explanation has been advanced by the authorities, despite numerous formal and informal requests.

  • 56 Decision NO 2279/QD-UBND on 27/07/2009, «Approval of plan for compensation, support and settlement (...)

57In 2009, the phenomenon reached a considerable scale: a 170 ha project, with 131.8 ha expropriating all of Đền Thõng’s best rice fields and those of three neighbouring villages, and most houses and shops in the centre of Đền Thõng and its tombs56. The need for replacement activities is becoming urgent. Migration to the cities could be accelerated due to the lack of land, and the authorities have not provided specifics, either in terms of relocation (where, when? under what conditions?), or in terms of new business activities (which jobs? for whom? what types of training?). Based on the important issues that give rise to the conflict between authorities and villagers, we propose an analysis of the complex processes at the foundations of these tensions.

58All the relationship issues were collected during the 2008 and 2009 interviews, and some were detailed in Gia đình & Xã hội (Family & Society Journal) and Pháp Lý (Legal Journal). For this chapter, we will retain only those that allow us to highlight functional or structural problems in exchanges between the administration and the population. Other problems, such as those related to corruption, insider trading, and abuse of power by officials and local police will not be discussed here. The newspapers have amply covered the topic.

  • 57 For everyday forms of resistance, often invisible and difficult to grasp in sociological surveys, s (...)

59The analysis of tension and conflict can primarily be found in a grid proposed by Albert Hirschman in his book Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations, and States (1970). In different political contexts, he shows that relations between conflicting social groups can be described and analyzed in 3 complementary angles: Loyalty: it is the acceptance, without visible resistance57, of constraints and pressures produced by one group over another. Voice: the group that suffers the constraints will speak out to try to start a dialogue, a negotiation with the antagonist group. Exit: it is the refusal of the group to enter a forced relationship with the oppressor group, the action of avoiding contact.

1-How land was "officially" reclaimed three months before the official decision of the province

  • 58 Đền Thõng villagers’letter of complaint (2009) and Gia đình & Xã hội, 22/01/2010.

60On January 25th 2006, Vĩnh Phúc Province People's Committee Decision No. 226/QĐ-UBND concerning the recovery of 10.723 m2 of land in the area of Tây Thiên (Đài Dinh commune, Tam Đảo District) to be allocated to the People's Committee of Tam Đảo District to build a parking lot on the Tây Thiên site was made. In fact, the surface of the parking lot was already filled and levelled on November 27th 2005 for the inaugural ceremony of Tây Thiên's Trúc Lâm Zen Monastery. Villagers pointed out that in fact the land in question had been recovered, developed, and paid off through the car park rental three months before the publication of the province's official decision. They state that this shows that “the local district and the commune authorities made all these transactions before receiving the written agreement from the province58”.

61The first issue is that the province's official decision giving the order to "recover" Đền Thõng's land came 3 months after the implementation of the decisions taken by the district and commune. This seeming "detail" will become the crux of conflicts between villagers and district and commune authorities, which had still not been resolved in March 2010.

62The villagers understood that the district and commune authorities did not comply with the province’s decisions regarding the procedures for expropriation and compensation. They also know they have very few effective means to claim recognition for their rights. This leads to a loss of confidence in local authorities. Several villagers expressed directly, and sometimes forcefully in the 2008 and 2009 interviews, this "broken social contract" between the population, politicians and administrators.

2-One law, two practical applications

  • 59 Data from 2008 and 2009 interviews.

63Since 2008, several joint letters of complaint from the inhabitants of Đền Thõng were first sent to the commune, then to the district. No answer was ever received and no actions were taken. In 2009, a delegation of women from the village59 went to Vĩnh Phúc Province People's Committee, after having made an appointment with the authorities to present a letter of complaint signed by 28 households whose “land had been recovered” (đất thu hồi) for the car park project in 2005. The province level contacts refused to meet with them, arguing their letter was not acceptable because it had not been filled in properly and was not a photocopy of the original. They were advised to redo these documents and make another appointment. These statements angered the women because they were only too aware how difficult it had been to obtain the signatures for their collective letter. To repeat the process with each family and explain the province's refusal would very likely put the village women in a difficult spot.

  • 60 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

64Firstly (November 2005), the commune and the district would sell the land of Đền Thõng village to a private company before they had the provincial decision of land recovery from the State. In a second step, when the villagers would want to enforce their rights for compensation for expropriation as specified in the decision of the province (NO226, 25 Janvier 2006), the district and the commune would use the following argument: “The decision of land recovery by the People's Committee of the province is not accompanied by an original: the commune does not have the original version but only a photocopy60.” And because “a photocopy does not have the same legal value”, the district and commune refuse to apply the province's decision – the People's Committee of Tam Đảo district should decide on the detailed recovery of lands. In other words, the district and the commune are responsible for applying the law on individual land recovery according to the needs of the country's economic development (Land Act 2003, article 39, see note above).

  • 61 Pháp Lý, 09/2009.

65Legally, this means that in addition to paying for the recovered surfaces, families would obtain other compensations such as rice, training programs and financial support for study. Following several requests from those whose possessions have been expropriated, the district and the commune People's Committee responded that these were “reclaimed lands that did not benefit from an expropriation decision.”61

  • 62 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

66For five years, it has not been possible to find a solution: each administrative body denied responsibility and claimed it lied with other governing bodies. In March 2010, no detailed decision on the expropriation had yet to be taken. The farmers fought to demand the decision be applied in its integrity. In January 2010, an inhabitant of Đền Thõng specified: “We need a written decision that details the terms instead of mere oral promises62.”

67In one situation, when the farmers demanded their rights be applied concerning state expropriated lands, the district and the commune answered that a simple photocopy was insufficient to implement the law on land compensation. However, a simple photocopy allowed the district and the commune to “sell” the villagers' land to a private company to build a car park in November 2005. The power of photocopies is therefore relative to the context in which it is used and also relative to the interests of those it can defend.

68In another case, the delegation of women was not able to present their letter of complaint at the provincial level because it was only a photocopy. A photocopy therefore can be used by authorities when needed, even if this means transgressing laws on the sale of land in Đền Thõng in November 2005. However, authorities are very strict about the uselessness of photocopies in terms of requests from the population.

69The same law does not apply in the same terms or with the same rigour depending on whether it deals with administrative documents that are useful for authorities or a document formulating demands written by farmers. In these conditions, the fiduciary relationship with authorities and the law are broken, with direct consequences on the villagers who are henceforth wary of the authorities’ proposals and constraints, even if they know that these constraints can be good for the future. Any future project will be under great suspicion and will probably meet active resistance.

3-With official decisions often being contradictory, how can one find a suitable solution?

  • 63 In May 2005, information from Commune People's Committee information mentioned 10,554.7m², but Vĩnh (...)

70At a May 2005 briefing in the commune, officials announced that 10,554.7m² of land will be expropriated for the tourism project launched by the province63 and that the compensation would amount to 9,843,000 VND/sào. The compensation will be the provision of training and 108 kg of paddy/sào for five years for members of households whose property has been expropriated. During the meeting, the villagers did not ask to see official documents that specified the circumstances. They simply trusted the local authority they dealt with. We have seen that the province issued a decision in January 2006 asking the district and the commune to implement the recovery of land for Đền Thõng village.

  • 64 «Implementation of Resolution No. 20/2008 of the People's Council of Vĩnh Phúc Province».
  • 65 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

71Furthermore, on May 15th 2009, “According to the Inter-Service Guide NO 241 People's Committee of Vĩnh Phúc province”64 on compensation income restricted to households, with regard to individuals who provide land to the state for the purpose of developing the economy, following the recovery decision, and with regard to the land that the state has recovered from 1/1/1997 to 31/12/2013, persons affected will receive the assistance of 108kg of paddy/sào per year for 5 consecutive years65”.

72Despite provincial decisions published in 2006 and 2009 and despite oral promises from the district and the commune since 2005, when villagers asked to receive training and paddy compensation for lands expropriated for the purpose of provincial development, they were faced with categorical refusal from the district and commune.

  • 66 Pháp Lý 09/2009.

73More precisely, "[the district and commune authorities] have responded that the land for the construction of the parking by Bình Minh Company was “recovered without the Decision of recovery”, which is why the local government does not certify [the compensation]66.”

  • 67 Pháp Lý 09/2009.

74The people wondered: “This land reclamation by district People's Committee of Tam Đảo has made the decision without recovery? Have they violated the land law of 2003 or not? […] One would think that the People's Committee of Vĩnh Phúc province and relevant bodies should arrive early to consider the recovery of land in the Đại Đình commune and the role of individuals involved67.”

  • 68 «Sở Tài nguyên và Môi trường: Trả lời kiến nghị của cử tri tại kỳ họp thứ 15 HĐND tỉnh. » http://tn (...)
  • 69 «Land Law 2003, Article 39 «Recovering land for use for purposes of defense, security, national int (...)

75In an official statement "in response to motions of voters at the 15th meeting of the People's Council of the province68", on July 22nd 2009, Vĩnh Phúc Province's People’s Committee requested that the district authorities "inform the public beforehand on projects that take place in the territory of Đại Đình commune, in accordance to Article 39 of the Land Law69 of 2003, which states “the reallocation of land to the state (recovery-expropriation) must be publicly announced within 90 days.”

76Moreover, in the same document, the province of Vĩnh Phúc asked “its department to build and Tam Đảo district to work with residents to report details of the land reclaimed for parking and to ensure the smooth running of the project.”

77This is the only answer that the province gave villagers. It only repeats the contents of previous decisions, without indicating the date of deposit for the records, or specifying that compensation must be granted by the National Land Act (2003) and by the province’s Inter-guide service in 2009. This response will have no effect on the the district and commune’s refusal.

  • 70 Gia đình & Xã hội, 03/02/2010.

78On February 3rd 2010, “a key cadre of the Party and of People’s Council of Đại Đồng commune said that so far there is still no decision from the district on the recovery of detailed area of reclaimed land [at Đền Thõng].70

  • 71 Collected during surveys from 2009.

79A sentence from the collective letter of complaint from Đền Thõng residents71 to the province in 2009 sums up the situation: “If the recovery of land has really made the decision without recovery of the province, then it is an illegal action and is misleading.”

80These examples show stark contradictions between official provincial decisions and the district and commune’s refusal in applying them. From a legal standpoint, it is surprising that this refusal to apply the law has not resulted in the province resorting to taking measures of control and coercion. To describe the case of Đền Thõng land reclaimed by the district outside the legal framework, the Family and Society Journal (22/01/2010) entitled an article with the traditional saying «Tiền trảm, hậu tấu» which literally translates to “Beheading someone before making his report to the king.” In other words, an official of lower rank did something far beyond his or her jurisdiction prior to requesting permission from their superior. Thus, summarizing the abuse of local power and virtually assured that there will be no prosecution for the perpetrators of such abuses, it can also create a sense of impunity among authorities that villagers openly criticize.

  • 72 «Phát triển kinh tế nhưng phải tôn trọng luật pháp!» (Thien Nhien [Nature], 15/08/2007).

81The same problem of non-compliance with national laws on the protection of national parks was so acute in 2007 in the case of the "Ecological Tourism Tam Đảo 2 and Tây Thiên" project, managed by Vĩnh Phúc province’s People’s Committee, that some newspapers referred to it with the following title: “Economic development, but it must respect the law!72

  • 73 See Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

82We address here the much more general problem of articulation between the legal system and its application in Vietnam73. As in all modern legal systems, Vietnamese law provides for a hierarchy of standards to define which authorities have more power of control than others. For example, as far as Planning and Land Use is concerned, Land Law of 2003 is clear:

  • 74 Official translation.

«Land Act 2003: Article 26. Competence to decide on, consider and approve the land use plannings and plans
1. The National Assembly decides on the land use plannings and plans of the whole country, which are submitted by the Government.
2. The Government considers and approves the land use plannings and plans of the provinces and centrally-run cities.
3. The provincial/municipal People's Committees consider and approve the land use plannings and plans of their immediate subordinate administrative units.
4. The People's Committees of the rural districts, provincial capitals or towns consider and approve the commune land use plannings and plans prescribed in Clause 4, Article 25 of this Law. »
«Article 25 4. The People's Committees of communes not located in areas of urbanized during a cycle of land use, organize the preparation of development plans and land use in their respective territories74. »

83In a more general view, the Land Law, Policy, Law and Development Institute says:

  • 75 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 3.

84Most scholars and officials have offered […] the main reasons to account for the increase in citizens’complaints about the administrative activities of the state's organs. […] The legal system of Vietnam is still inadequate in many regards, overlapping, and contradictory in content. […] As such, the implementation of laws produces many contradictions, damaging the rights and interests of citizens, and therefore, generating complaints. Not only is it not an effective tool in assisting state administrative organs to settle citizens’complaints, but the mechanism itself has become a factor stimulating the increase of complaints and making those complaints even more complicated and long lasting75.”

85The case presented above shows that laws are not always met and that the villagers do not have the legal instruments, nor the power to enforce their rights. In addition, a law that is not accompanied by means of control and coercion in the event of non-compliance has few chances to be implemented. This was the situation as observed at Đền Thõng village for 5 years.

IV-What are the possibilities to file a complaint or to have one’s rights recognized?

86We will see that the means of expression and the channels used by villagers to make their voices heard by authorities have evolved over time. We will try to give a more complete panorama of these collective actions. On the other hand, we will see that, in response to villages’ requests, provincial, district and communal levels of communication remained low and often contradictory.

1-Requests of information and complaint procedures

87As a first recourse, villagers need to inform officials then request a meeting with them. Since 2006, several villagers who have not received 108 kg paddy per sao of rice field that was expropriated had asked to meet the Chairman of Commune’s People’s Committee, and the President of District’s People’s Committee: they requested explanations and compensations as their lawful right according to a 2006 provincial decision. The commune answered that they had no information on this subject on the grounds that land management belonged to the district and the province. Finally, the district refused to consider their request to meet them.

88This first form of collective action is characterized by a demand for dialogue and explanation. It corresponds to the type of relationship known as "Voice" (see Hirschman, 1970). The aim of these actions is to try to resolve tensions and conflicts by sharing and negotiating. In this case, it is a series of unilateral actions initiated by villagers. In their view, the different administrative institutions failed to meet the demands of the people. The lack of response will generate forms of collective actions that will be discussed below.

89For villagers, participation and non-participation in project meetings are also a means to express their rejection of existing communication methods. A large group of villagers were called in and came to official meetings. They told us “if the officials’ discourses are ambiguous and if they refuse to answer questions, the villagers leave the meeting as a sign of protesting. This happened several times in 2008 and 2009.

90One example was told with irony by many Đền Thõng inhabitants about a meeting held at the Commune’s People's Committee in August 2009 with about 40 heads of families from the four villages affected by the project (Project 2 Phase 2 and Project 3). Local authorities were represented by an engineer of the development plan and some commune officials, but representatives of the district and the province were absent. All the villagers noted the harm of this absence. Commune authorities keep repeating that "they do not have all the information on projects, and have no power of decision on expropriation and compensation.” Under these prevalent conditions, many of them refuse to go to formal meetings on these projects that they describe as "masquerade". The refusal to participate is a way for the villagers to show their objection.

91This specific position can be qualified as “passive resistance”, a form of protest that has already been heavily used by pacific leaders like Gandhi in India. In Hirschman’s analytical frame, "exit" means the release of the exchange, and the distancing of the mutual relationship. In the passage of "Voice" to "Exit", there is a deterioration in the quality of exchanges with a view to resolve tensions.

  • 76 According to interviews made in 2009 and Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

92For several years, different groups of villagers have written collective letters of complaint delivered by hand to the Commune People's Committee and District People's Committee76. Finally in 2009, they wrote to the Province People’s Committee. We have in our possession a copy of a letter of complaint from last spring 2009 to the Province People’s Committee. The letter is signed by 28 families who demanded that the decisions of the province be respected in terms of compensation for land expropriated by the state. We have seen earlier how such letters were received. Since none of these governing bodies have responded to their repeated requests, several villagers plan to bring the case before the authorities of Hà Nội. But they know that such a move has virtually no chance of success if it is not backed by powerful personalities.

2-Forms of resistance to the tourism development projects

93Since September 2009, villagers have upped their protest via physical actions against arrangements of expropriated land. For example, on September 23rd, 2009, in late morning, a truck was bringing a bulldozer on the land to be developed near the car park. The bulldozer’s task was to level the land, which immediately brought about twenty villagers running, or riding on bicycles and motorbikes to oppose the work of the bulldower. The discussion between farmers, the site manager and the driver of the bulldozer took about 30 minutes, but given the villagers’ strong determination, and their threats if the machine moved any soil, the bulldozer did not get its work done that day.

Conflict between villagers and a bulldozer driver on the task of extending the parking area: 23/09/2009 (Source N. T. Quỳnh 09 2009)

  • 77 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010-22/01/2010. http://giadinh.net.vn/home/20100122084745405p0c1000/khuat (...)

94In November 2009, villagers were informed of the Official Opening ceremony of Tây Thiên cableway, which would be held in the presence of important personalities from the country and the region at the beginning of December 2009. On November 20th, 2009, they decided to block the entrance to the car park, so that authorities could not park for the ceremony, as well as urged for the Bình Minh conpany not to continue to make profit with from this parking area while operating without official permission. Therefore the district police had to intervene to open the parking, because this event came just few days before the grand opening special event of Tây Thiên cableway (05/12/2009)77.

  • 78 Gia đình & Xã hội, 22/1/2010.

On November 20, 2009, the Gateway parking is blocked by the villagers, a few days before the Official Opening ceremony of Tây Thiên cableway78.

  • 79 Gia đình & Xã hội.

95On his inteview to Family and Society Journal79 (20/01/2010), a key cadre of the Party and of the People’s Council of Đại Đồng commune said “Obstacles to the recovery of land for parking construction in 2005 cause many difficulties for local authorities. In November 2009, District police intervened. The day before the ceremony for the construction of the Tây Thiên cable, he and some leaders of the commune had to go to each person to persuade them because officials were afraid of difficulties with the people on the day of the big ceremony”.

  • 80 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

96Mr. T.V.B., from Đền Thõng village, said: «November 20, 2009, the district police came to the village and called on the people to come to voice their remarks and express their wishes for them to be heard by higher levels of administration. In the minutes prepared by the police, it said that in one month, if nobody could solve this case, the people will block the parking lot. But more than a month later, in these administrative levels cared to to solve this problem. Until 23/12/2009 […] we, the people again blocked the door of the parking. If any administrative person cannot resolve this matter, we will continue to block the car park. Because as long as there is no decision of recovery, these lands remain our property80.”

97Between 2006 and 2009, the villagers moved from passive resistance in their writing letters of protest to concrete actions against the projects imposed on their village. As for the various authorities, no strong signal has been issued to resolve this problem. Only when the authorities realized that the villagers would probably use the Opening Ceremony of the cable work and the presence of many members of the media to express their discontent that officials came to reassure the villagers. The police then recorded grievances and complaints from residents. But since November 2009, no authority has helped to unblock the situation of expropriated land.

98To complete the overview of the relationship between population and administrations, we will describe the case of a Đền Thõng trading family living mainly from tourism and agricultural land rented to others. In interviews (2009), the head of the family presented the different phases of tourism projects as totally positive changes, noting that many villagers did not understand the value of these projects. After several hours of interviews, we learned that this family sold the land in Project 1 (2005-2006) project. But it has also bought large lots of land on the boundaries of the 51-hectare project - Project 2 Phase 1. This family made a good deal because the lands purchased in 2007 were at very low price, but the land bought by the project – Project 2 Phase 2 in 2009, was at a higher rate. While most villagers are unaware of the details of these projects, how has this family been able to invest in land that would soon take on more value? In a second interview with another member of this family, we learned that a son of the family works in a department of the district that manages Đền Thõng’s tourism projects. It is through "insider" information that the family was able to make a successful real estate transaction, while the majority of villagers feel cheated by the projects.

99Through Hirschman’s analysis, the position of this family is "Loyalty": they accept - even support - the positions of administrative bodies on projects, and this for two reasons. The first: the family is itself directly involved in the administrative system, therefore it belongs simultaneously to two groups: the villagers and the administration. The second: this family has used confidential information about the land and plans to make a good real estate transaction.

  • 81 Gia đình & Xã hội Newspaper (22/01/2010) describes an interview with an officer from the District w (...)

100This particular example can show that the social groups involved do not have exclusive positions. Some families and some people81 belong simultaneously to two or several groups with divergent interests on tourism projects. This set of multiple memberships is also an important factor in understanding how social dynamics can be organized beyond the dual approach.

V-Key elements in understanding the current tensions between villagers and local authorities

101Since November 2005, relations between villagers and authorities have continued to deteriorate to such an extent that by 2009, the villagers displayed acts of physical resistance against the implementation of projects on their land. Tensions and conflicts are certainly due to a series of factors, both structural and human. The space allotted here does not allow us develop them all in detail. For this reason, and because of the communication problems observed here that overlap those observed in many development projects, we shall first present the villagers with repeated questions about their future in unfamiliar projects they did not master. Then we shall look for who are considered the "actors involved in the project”, otherwise known as the "stakeholders" in the vocabulary of development. Finally, we shall advance three possible explanations for understanding the basis of relations between villagers and authorities around these projects.

1-Questions about the future of the village: are they taken into account in projects?

102During 2008 and 2009 interviews, we noted the points that villagers raised. They, in turn, asked us, the researchers, many questions about current projects and their future potential. Two major problems appear through their questions.

a) What are the means and ways to run seasonal and religious tourism as a regular yearly leisure activity?

  • How will the authorities and private companies be able to attract tourists every month of the year, in Đền Thõng - Tây Thiên, while the great pilgrimage takes place only two months a year?

  • Most Đền Thõng families with regular and sufficient income have diversified their activities. Traditionnally, they produce irrigated rice, but because rice is not enough for profit, they turn to more diversified agricultural activities such as intensive poultry or high-value wild-animal rearing (such as porcupines and wild boars). Many of them are involved in tourist activities only a few months per year, so the villagers wondered if local authorities provide for the diversification of activities to ensure a regular flow of income.

    • 82 Three entertainment activities that are strongly connected with the «sex trade» in Vietnam.

    If the new tourism projects include activities such as golf and leisure (massage, karaoke, spa82), would they harm the image of the site, which is mainly centred on Buddhism and spirituality?

b) They also raised more technical issues

  • When will authorities and private companies begin to build the infrastructure to welcome tourists?

  • Will Hotels and restaurants be built in our village and give employement to the village or commune?

103There is no clear information or answer to these questions.

104Many families have relatives in the villages in Tam Đảo National Park’s buffer zone which have recently welcomed golf courses and resorts, and they know that companies have given contracts to people in Hà Nội and Hải Phòng because they are better trained than local staff. Local employees only have low-quality jobs. The doubts and anger of the villagers who are "turned away" from these projects through unfulfilled promises over the past 5 years seem to be legitimate.

105In other words, none of these key issues in the organization of local life has been answered, by official voices (not even partially). Almost all the villagers interviewed in 2008 and 2009 expressed their deep feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty about their future in tourism projects.

  • 83 In 2006, GTZ experts conducted surveys over a few days on the technical implementation of Tourist p (...)

106These questions show repeatedly that people do not yet know the detailed project plans that affect them closely. But by reversing the question one might ask whether projects and the people in charge are aware of the local population included within their scope of development? Many factors lead to thinking that this is not the case. For instance, no serious economic or sociological study has been conducted since 2005 on the needs of different projects83. This is surprising when you consider that 800 people will be relocated for the project’s needs.

107From a methodological point of view, one wonders why, during none of the 4 phases of projects imposed on the village, no time has been taken to ask people how to better integrate the project into their lives and the local equilibrium. Going further in the analysis, one wonders which groups are considered "project actors" or "stakeholders" with the project leaders.

2-Who are considered “project stakeholders” and by whom?

  • 84 Development and Partial Finalisation of Sustainable Tourism Development Concepts for Key Areas in T (...)

108This is the first question that arises when a project manager comes in contact with fieldwork. Developing new activities and transforming landscapes, jobs and the habits of villagers, all of the above require knowing at least some information on the situation “before the project”. More importantly, one needs to identify the groups of social actors that will be involved in the project at varying degrees. We will not give an analysis of the different groups of Đền Thõng’s actors. We will only show that the short survey conducted by the Tourism and Regional Development Consultant84 is the only thing that lists the stakeholders of Tây Thiên project. Our analysis based on their 2006 mission report will attempt to show how the choice of stakeholders can have strong consequences on project management.

  • 85 Otto, 2006, p. 1.
  • 86 Otto, 2006, p. 42.

109The Consultant’s report (2006) said “tasks of the fieldwork mission are to develop, discuss and agree with all main stakeholders on a vision and starting ideas for sustainable tourism development at Tây Thiên Pagoda85.” “Finally a common discussion with Tây Thiên Tourism board and stakeholders was agreed in order to come to an agreement on what should be understood to be essential for ecotourism development, but also to discuss ideas and the following steps for implementation86.”

a) Who are the stakeholders and the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board?

110Stakeholders: The Following stakeholders appeared at the workshop at 3rd November 2006 and should be considered for further activities:

  • Tam Đảo district People’s Committee,

  • Department for Tourism [from Vĩnh Phúc province People’s Committee]

  • Department for Culture and Information [from Vĩnh Phúc province People’s Committee]

  • Tam Đảo National Park

  • Tam Đảo Management Project

  • Private sector/tourism firms” (Otto 2006: 42)

111This German consultant team describes “stakeholders” as official institutions and departments, management board, formal groups and private firms. Here, we are faced with a classic symptom of almost all development projects: official, formal and institutional groups are considered as “usual regular stakeholders”, while the local population which include farmers, traders and shopkeepers are not included on the list of projects stakeholders. There is no place on the stakeholders list for the few hundred families of farmers who have already lost a large part of the best rice fields and residential and commercial land. How is it possible for villagers to be included among the stakeholders?

112In official Vietnamese documents of the development project, we can find the same kind of classification where all stakeholders are leaders or responsible for official organizations, committees and associations. The main reason is because all of these official and formal groups are supposed to “be representative of the whole population”. This is a serious limitation to the concept of “people participation” projects and of local forms of governance. In brief, this approach to the social realities and affiliation dramatically reduces the possibility and opportunity for social groups without official affiliation to participate in the local governance process.

113However, the Consultant’s report also mentioned that the “Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board” may include non-affiliated and non-official members of the population.

b) Who are Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board members?

114Because the Consultants' report did not give details, we looked at the composition of the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board through official documents. A decision (03/11/2005) NO 701/2005/QD-UB) from Tam Đảo District People’s Committee gave helped to provide an answer:

115Article 5: Organizational structure:

116The Tây Thiên Management Board is composed of one head, two deputy heads (one is a full-time deputy head and another is part-time deputy head), and other staff under overall leadership of the head. Whenever necessary, the Board may sign additional contracts to recruit extra local labourers to fill in necessary positions.

  • 87 Decision on “Regulation on Management and Exploitation of Tây Thiên Tourist Site” Tam Đảo, 3rd Nove (...)

117In addition to assigned key tasks, each part-time staff is asked to do additional tasks assigned by the head and is also responsible to local Communist Party, District People’s Committee and cultural agencies in terms of fulfillment of his tasks87.”

118This article clearly states: “each part-time staff is asked to do additional tasks assigned by the head and is also responsible for the local Communist Party, District People’s Committee and cultural agencies in terms of the fulfillment of his tasks.” On the one hand, this means that political leaders (Communist Party), responsible administrators (District People’s Committee) and officials from the cultural department are ex officio members of the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board. On the other hand, this shows that the Management Board does not include anyone who is not already an official person validated by higher authorities, such as peasants, merchants or monks from local monasteries. The local population is not directly present in this Management Board and no member of civil society will be represented. Here, we encounter a specific point in the local organization of Vietnam’s management committees and project organization. These are established on a top-down frame, often with financial and technical assistance from international bodies (World Bank, European Union, UN, etc.). But from a practical point of view, as their members are all major players in political and administrative structures, these management committees have very little autonomy and little power in decision-making, therefore any risk of conflict between these committees and various authorities are immediately silenced by the fact that they belong to both institutions. From a theoretical and official viewpoint, it is easy to show that "local governance" and "civil society" are developing rapidly, if we refer to the tables that show how many “independent” groups and associations have been created. In this case, the notion of “independence” is more a demonstration of propaganda than a description of observable social realities. From a practical point of view, the double loyalties of members renders obsolete any dissents and of course any real possibility to create a real dialogue.

119It is interesting to note that the major and recurring patterns of people representation in the civil structure of organization in Vietnam have not been highlighted by GTZ’s experts in 2006. But they clearly show that the Tây Thiên Tourism Management Board had no real power of decision in these projects. They also stressed that the proper functioning of the project required that the Management Board be substantially increased (this will not happen). However, they did not think that, due to its composition and the status of its members, this board was the main limitation to this option.

3-Assumptions on the basis of the relationship between authorities and the people

120In the specific context of Đền Thõng’s projects and using the available data, I would suggest three main reasons to try to understand the basis of this relationship, and the issues that arise between authorities and citizens.

a) «The peasants do not understand how the system works.
They must follow the directives of the authorities»

121This sentence is often heard coming from the mouths of administrators, especially in situations of difficulty and misunderstanding with the local people. It is tinged with paternalism and especially emphasizes the disparities between two worlds: those who know and others who don’t. We have seen that the complexity and contradictions between administrative decisions and their applications can lead to understanding why it is possible to say "peasants do not understand the administrative system." To get a more balanced view, we should find out whether administrators, the drafters of decisions and those responsible for their practical applications have a real and better understanding of the system. Without going too far in that direction, it is possible to say that producers of official norms, laws and regulations are generally better equipped to navigate the "grey areas of law" than the average Vietnamese citizen, whether urban or peasant. But this journey into "troubled waters" is possible because they know that ordinary people are very hesitant to use the law against responsible authorities. For example, since 2005, despite the tensions and obvious conflict, Đền Thõng villagers have taken only one legal action (a collective letter of complaint) against the authorities regarding suspicious activity. However, this action has been rejected.

122In 2008, some Vietnamese sociologists do not hesitate to assert that “Vietnamese peasants are afraid of paper work and administrative matters.” Again, it would be interesting to find the origins and foundations of this "supposed fear", which is perhaps not solely linked to farmers. Unfortunately, this would lead us astray from the main lines of our subject. To nuance that statement, I will only recall that, in the case of Đền Thõng after the first meeting in May 2005, villagers have not called in to check on promises made on paper by local authorities in relation to compensation. This was not out of "fear of paper" but rather because their confidence in their leaders was over.

  • 88 Interview made in 2009.

123Let us remember this exasperated woman who said “we want guarantees written and verbal promises”. Fear of paper disappears when they realize that the official discourse is more trust-worthy, as was the case on several occasions since 2005 in Đền Thõng projects. In 2009, a farmer woman from Đền Thõng who regularly works in tourism explains her her perception of relations with officials as such: “For the authorities, we are regarded as naïve: we listen to political cadres, officials of the People's Committee, and ultimately accept their policies. But since 2005, they have gone too far, and now we are trying to learn and we do not trust them88.”

b) The character "priority" of major development projects and law enforcement

  • 89 This huge project (600 ha and 300 millions USD) stopped totally in September 2007 under pressure fr (...)
  • 90 Prime Minister of Vietnam, 17 May 2002, “List of national projects calling for foreign direct inves (...)
  • 91 UBND Vĩnh Phúc, 2006, “Essential Report on the ecotourism Project Tam Đảo and Tây Thiên”. [in Vietn (...)

124Đền Thõng-Tây Thiên projects, such as the huge "Tam Đảo 2" project a few years ago89, are parts of a major national campaign in tourism development supported by ministerial90 and provincial91 decisions. Administrative authorities at all levels know that they are acting within the framework of a large project and officialy supported by the government, giving them more freedom and sometimes more audacity.

125In 2006, in the heart of the controversy around project "Tam Đảo 2", the GTZ reports the province’s announcement by giving it an extremely positive tone even though it is completely unrealistic.

  • 92 Report Vĩnh Phúc Provincial People’s Committee, March 2005.

126The 5-year Socio-Economic Development Plan (SEDP) (2006-2010) of Vĩnh Phúc province92 considers Vĩnh Phúc as a province with “huge potentials for tourism that is a good basis for development of internationally, and nationally-important tourism and recreation service sites”. As for orientations for sub-regional development, the Tam Đảo mountain range is considered as a centre for modern and eco-touristic development. According to the Resolution of the District Party’s Congress for the period of 2005-2010: in a section mentioning the tasks and solutions for socio-economic development until 2020, the Resolution considers tourism development as a key economic pillar. […]”

  • 93 Otto, 2006, p. 20 annexe.

127Accelerated construction of Tam Đảo trading and commercial centre and Tây Thiên tourism site so that it becomes a tourist centre in the province and within the whole country93.”

128In March 2010, extolling the merits of Tây Thiên Project 3 (cable car and tourist constructions over 170 hectares) at the provincial, national and regional (Southeast Asia) levels, the report of the province also makes highly optimistic forecasts:

  • 94 «Danh thắng Tây Thiên-tầm vóc khu du lịch trọng điểm của tỉnh và quốc gia» [Tây Thiên Scenic magnit (...)

129This [Tây Thiên] will be one of the the most important festivals in Vĩnh Phúc. It aims to meet the annual celebration of the province. […] According to estimates, after the completion of the project, spiritual and cultural tourism in Tây Thiên will welcome millions of visitors each year, allowing local people to transform their economic structure, develop their society94.”

130These development projects which are spreading throughout Tam Đảo National Park and its buffer zone have been launched without any form of rigorous prior survey, in terms of market study, social and environmental impacts, in order to establish such estimates. Despite this low level of knowledge concerning local situations, these projects are presented as “a necessity for economic development, for the country and the province”. Could this ‘national necessity’ be an argument to enable the authorities that are implicated in these projects to avoid certain laws in order to reach their development objectives?

131Thus, some major tourism development projects (as “Tam Đảo 2” in 2002-2007, 600 ha, 300 million USD, and “Đền Thõng-Tây Thiên” in 2009-2013, 173 ha, 22 million euro, 800 people relocated) have been launched without prior serious studies of feasibility and impact (social, economical, environment, etc.). Such projects developed on theoretical bases are often failures, or "relatively successful", especially in the integration of local populations. Are these "national interest" and the official support of the "Prime Minister" sufficient to offset or replace the study of impact? In the case of Đền Thõng, projects supported by national and provincial administrations could explain the absence of sanctions by the province for not complying with the legislation of expropriation by the district and commune.

  • 95 See Official Website of Ministry Of Natural Resources and Environment, “Eliminate More Than 50 Golf (...)
  • 96 For the prohibition of 7 golf projects around Ho Chi Minh City city, see Tuoi Tre, 04/05/09.

132In this context, however, we have noted that the regulation of large tourism projects began to develop. For example, the end to tourist complex project "Tam Đảo 2" at the heart of Tam Đảo National Park was supported by the Prime Minister in 2008, and in June 2009, prohibited the construction of 50 golf courses (on the 166 forecast...) because they were threatening agriculture in Vietnam95, but not for environmental reasons or reasons of ratio between areas of land use and jobs provided as we would have thought96.

c) Top-down and “leading practices”

  • 97 Pháp Lý, 09/2009.

133It is necessary to discuss here some of the features of historical relationships between population and government and more broadly in governance. Since the 1980s and 1990s decollectivization period, the implementation of Đổi Mới reforms (which legally start in 1986) and the involvement of international bodies in the «economic and social development» of Vietnam increased since the 2000s, the Vietnamese political and administrative authorities are increasingly forced to be accountable for their decisions and their management of public property. Some recent laws, such as those on "grassroots democracy" (1998 and 2003), were produced specifically for this purpose, but their applications at the local level is still rare or partial. This legal framework and national advertising practices around the "democratic" and "participatory" are new elements in Vietnam, but many case studies show that it remains largely theoretical. As we have seen, administrative practices on the «fringe» of the law and officials decisions are still relevant. For Đền Thõng this has been the case for over 5 years, sometimes with the use of public force to cover these excesses97.

  • 98 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

134In 2005, when land was expropriated for parking, authorities "played" on their status and respectable position that: “According to households who have recovered land in 2005, they just thought it was a decision on the State’s part, therefore it must be observed98.”

135Those who hold authorityThis attitude that the holder of the authority will use, and sometimes abuse, its image and real and symbolic power has been reported by several villagers who attended the briefing of August 2009 at Đại Đình. They explained to us that during this meeting, they tried to understand “why they should accept things contrary to official decisions, and they have asked officials to explain in detail the status of projects.” After four years of waiting, still no answers have been provided, and with the collective feeling of being abused on several levels, villagers have insisted on getting concrete answers. Probably short of arguments and threatened by his authority being questioned, and certainly caught between decision and implementation, one representative of the People's commune Đại Đình stood up and said «This is a decision of the province, you must obey.» The villagers' demand for dialogue is put to an end by the recourse to higher authority. But this injunction loses its force when it is known that the commune itself has not respected the decisions of the province about the parking lot since 2005.

136These “leading practices” have prompted villagers to change their relations with authorities and with the law:

  • 99 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

137On behalf of the affected households, Mrs. H. states: «We do not ask why no decision has been made to expropriate the land since they have taken it anyway, [We ask first and foremost] whether this action is consistent with State laws or not? After losing our land, we watched TV and we learned about laws and policies, we can know [what our rights are]99.»” (my emphasis).

138Villagers are progressively aware of their rights, they gather information, compare situations and ask for written documentation to authorities. But once informed, can they enforce their rights? The crucial issue is the application of laws and practical situations, to which is added the complexity of legislative arsenal.

  • 100 On means of appointing judges and lawyers in Vietnam, and the levels of judicial independence in Vi (...)
  • 101 The case of the Tây Thiên project is not isolated, in many projects of local economic interests (un (...)

139With regard to development projects, authorities – in conjunction with private companies – usually act "routinely" without enough accurate data on the socio-economic situation, and without taking into account the views of people affected by the project. We have noted that decisions are often made without a direct relationship with the local equilibrium and the wishes of the people. The "top-down" process is the rule of thumb, and will likely continue because authorities know that, if difficulties arise, they are almost assured that higher authorities will not use means of coercion (the case of the province of Vĩnh Phúc against Tam Đảo district and Đại Đình commune). They also know that people will not go to court to secure these rights. Through a combination of lack of control by hierarchies and the people's inability to enforce the law, authorities have carte-blanche to implement interventionist practices that do not concur with the law. The proof is in Đền Thõng, even after 5 years of tension and conflict, no legal proceedings against the commune and district have been officially filed. The villagers say that such an appeal is long and expensive and the final decision is almost always favourable to the administration100. This action is not thought of as an effective instrument to recognize these rights among among most of the population. All of the above gives free rein to manage top-down and sometimes “leading practices” in development by local authorities101.

VI-What are the possibilities of governance within a complex legal framework?

140As mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I will propose to show that Đền Thõng projects help to highlight some general problems of coordination between the law and its application in Vietnam. I have chosen to bring these issues in two axis. First, it is to question the hierarchy of norms in direct relation with the lack of coordination between certain administrative decisions and their applications. Finally, to open our paper on wider perspectives, we discuss issues of governance and civil society through the tensions and conflicts between people and government, and through the legal frameworks in which they can express themselves.

1-A hierarchy of norms at the foundation of law

141As we have seen above, in many cases, official texts are not always respected by the authorities themselves. We will try to understand how and perhaps why.

  • 102 Part of the administrative documents are certainly unknown.

142From a legal standpoint, the four tourism projects implemented in the village of Đền Thõng since 2005 have necessitated the issuance of over 30 official administrative documents of legal value102, (directives, decrees, decisions, resolutions, minutes, inter-service guides, notes, plans of land tenure, etc.). These documents came from several departments (the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Forestry, the Forest Protection Department's management), from the province of Vĩnh Phúc People's Committee and its various departments (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Department of Planning and Investment, Department of Finance, Department of Construction, etc.), People's Committee of Tam Đảo district, People's Committee of commune Đài Dinh, the Provincial and District Party's Congress and the instances of the Tam Đảo National Park.

143Note that none of these agencies or institutions ad hoc has been aware of all the legal documents issued about Đền Thõng–Tây Thiên projects. Their theoretical coordination is virtually impossible, so we understand that the problem is more acute for their practical applications.

  • 103 See Abuza (2000) and Salomon (2004).
  • 104 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

144Since the 1980s and the Đổi Mới reforms, the production of many laws, decrees, codes, regulations and decisions in all areas is exponential103. On the other hand, the monitoring tools for their application and enforcement for noncompliance are negligible in comparison, hence the enormous weakness in the implementation of the legal system104.

  • 105 In 2008-2009, with the Franco-Vietnamese Graduate School of Law, and with the support of its coordi (...)

145In an attempt to understand the foundations of the legal system and especially the public law that particularly governs the relationship between individuals and governments, due to my lack of legal experience, we sought advice from Vietnamese and French lawyers105. Their research on the hierarchy of norms has shown that it is not defined clearly and definitively in texts. They showed that Vietnamese law has more than twenty levels of hierarchy from different political and administrative bodies stricto sensu: constitution, ordinances and resolutions of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, codes, decrees and decisions of the State President, Government resolutions and decrees, decisions and directives of the Prime Minister, the decisions, directives and circulars of ministers and heads of agencies ministerial rank, etc. Such kind of norms can also be published by representatives of local power: the People's Council and the People's Committees of provinces and districts, and political bodies like the Regional Congress of the Communist Party.

  • 106 In comparison, private law, in particular the branch of business law, is highly developed in Vietna (...)
  • 107 According to Carole Cayssials (2008) “Application of research Project in National Research Agency - (...)

146The difficulties in understanding this system are also related to the small number of studies and publications in the field of public law in Vietnam106. Several other reasons may explain these difficulties. Firstly, access to data on Vietnamese law is difficult: the complexity of the norms set, no hierarchy between them, no publication and no systematic publication of court decisions. One consequence is the abundant production of law by the government, which created a real "underground law", which is known only to certain people, through their network of contacts. Then, for historical and political reasons, there is no real Vietnam doctrine of public law that would help the overall understanding of the system107.

  • 108 Nguyen Van Suu in this Occasional Paper and Janet C. Sturgeon and Thomas Sikor (2004) “Post–Sociali (...)

147All these elements combined will produce "grey areas" characterized by inaccuracies or contradictions in texts and the level of law enforcement. This "legal limbo" or "law fuzziness" has been highlighted by several researchers on land law108. Among several complete texts, none can establish the hierarchy of norms between them.

  • 109 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 12).

148In the case of Đền Thõng, we saw that the three administrative levels (province, district and commune) have regularly been rejecting their responsibility one after the other for decisions to expropriate or not expropriate land since 2005. «The [official] agencies tried to avoid the advisory responsibility, passing responsibility to each other. Or, advisory agencies have different views on the same case109.” The administration itself seemed lost in its own operations. But does it really get lost in the system? In practice, some "grey areas of the law" will be used to the advantage of those who have detailed knowledge of the legal system and the networks that are necessary for its implementation. These conditions favour people close to the administration and officials at the expense of ordinary citizens. For their part, citizens such as Đền Thõng farmers told us they do not know at what level or to what service they may address their requests and complaints to get results. In some specific cases, as in Đền Thõng, this system, however, based on legal texts that give rights to citizens, creates in practice a form of recurrent injustice because citizens cannot enforce the texts, and cannot enforce their basic rights. For its part, the administration has produced these texts and voted without any real dialogue between departments, so they are often contradictory.

  • 110 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 3).

149Some laws were issued by the organ without power over the matter; and there is a lack of compatibility and consistency between sub-laws, administrative documents, laws, and the Constitution110.” Such a situation gives the administration the freedom to have large areas of uncontrolled action for top-down attitudes and non-transparency. These grey areas are causing the vast majority of tensions and conflicts between people and the Vietnamese administration.

  • 111 Not only is it not an effective tool in assisting state administrative organs to settle citizens’ (...)
  • 112 See Nguyen Thi Thanh Bình’s chapter in this Occasional Paper for specific examples.

150The next difficulty is that, in Vietnam, in practice, there are no standardized methods of dispute resolution mechanisms with the government. No independent body would resolve these difficulties111, such as "administrative courts" in the French system. In these circumstances, citizens have thus resorted to arrangements in a "list of possible actions" that the system allows or tolerates. Some collective actions have been detailed above, among other effective and observable possibilities: the one-off event of dissatisfaction with the ministry in Hà Nội, or the application of the "envelope theory112" that can pay for “extra services" for an officer to resolve a problem.

151Given the many constraints and the Kafkaesque nature of legal texts, people often put up indirect forms of resistance, usually discrete and difficult to discern.

  • 113 In LInvention du quotidien (Invention of Everyday), 1981.
  • 114 «Tactiques d’accommodement» in French.
  • 115 See his article in this book.

152This is what Benedict Kerkvliet calls " Evereyday Politics " (1995 and 2005). For Michel de Certeau113, these non-frontal forms of resistance in social interactions are described as “compromised tactics”114. Such discrete and diverted actions also include what Nguyen Van Suu describes as “the power of the people over the state in the process of policy-making and policy implementation115.” Ultimately, it helps build little freedom for everyday use on the margins of the system, but these spaces often remain in the area of the tacit and unspoken. For this reason, they generally pass through the mesh of researchers.

153We have seen that in the real jungle of official texts, conflict resolution with the administration is long and generally benefits the authorities more than the people. The "grey areas" created by the administration itself, through the production of laws and legal texts, can be analyzed as an instrument to defend the interests of the administration and officials at the expense of those of the population. Finally, having many "grey areas" in different fields of the law is therefore contrary to the “formal” processes and well-publicized policies of "grassroots democracy" and "good governance" in Vietnam.

2-Forms of local governance and expressions of civil society

  • 116 As provided by the Law on Complaints and Denunciations, citizens can only exercise his/her right t (...)
  • 117 We will not discuss here the role of lawyers in the administration. For further information, see Sa (...)

154Since 2005, despite the many causes of tensions and even their rise to physical action in 2009, no Đền Thõng villagers, individually or in groups116, have decided to file a complaint for breach of certain laws on the purchase of land and legal compensation from the courts. As we have shown above, they explain that the process is long, complex and expensive, and believe that the chances of "fairness" are too low. Having excluded forms of litigation and methods of action that have already been developed, the only thing that is left is the status quo or a search for a form of mediation between the government and the people. We will consider this second option. What are the possibilities of dialogue and mediation in this type of litigation117?

  • 118 Mặt Trận Tổ Quốc Việt Nam.
  • 119 In 2009, the Vietnam Fatherland Front had produced and controlled 31 social, political, technical, (...)
  • 120 This topic will be analysed in a book on the emergence of civil society in Vietnam (forthcoming 201 (...)

155Some observers argue, with UNDP support, that, in contemporary Vietnamese society, the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF118) and the mass organizations that depend on the VFF such as the Women’s Union, Farmers’ Union, Association of Young Communists, etc.119 are "the main organizations of civil society in Vietnam" (Norlund 2006). We will not discuss here the specific positions of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and mass organizations120 in the relations between government and people. I will merely give a concrete example concerning Đền Thõng, having noted the legal definition of the Fatherland Front:

  • 121 Article 1, Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front, June 12, 1999”... the entire people’s great solidar (...)

156Vietnam Fatherland Front constitutes a part of the political system of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, led by the Communist Party of Vietnam; and constitutes a political base of the people’s administration, a place where the people express their will and aspirations121...”

  • 122 Nguyen Thê Anh, 1992.

157If one respects the spirit of this legislation, it is difficult to include the Vietnam Fatherland Front in civil society as being part of the political system and different state levels. This particular institution does not have the slightest degree of independence and autonomy to establish a dialogue with offical institutions. In other words, “[the] Fatherland Front [...] is actually the secular arm of Party for the population, known as «the political tool of People's Power with the objective to strengthen unanimously politics122. »”

  • 123 Data from Surveys in Lao Cai (2003 à 2009), Surveys in Nam Dinh (2006 à 2009), Surveys in Bac Ninh (...)

158Consider the specific example of Đền Thõng. During interviews in September 2009, a Đền Thõng woman explains the specific position of the Vietnam Fatherland Front and mass organizations in the conflict with the administration. She is one of the leaders of the Women's Union in the commune of Đài Dinh, and she is also directly involved in the conflict with the commune and district on expropriated land at unfair prices and without legal compensation. Because of her status in the Union of Women, she says her role is to mobilize the villagers to sign the documents for tourism projects, as the Women's Union is one of the relays of government and Party to the people. Note that the relay operates mainly in a "top–down” sense, and communications in the "bottom-up" sense are rare and difficult123. Due to her position as owner of expriopriated land in 2005, she said that it was not officially and properly conducted and that it does not guarantee the economic future of the village. In addition, she participated in requests for compliance with legal compensation related to state expropriation. In this example, we can clearly see the almost schizophrenic situation of some local officials caught between their legal position and their direct interests.

159What can also be noted is that the group of Đền Thõng women who attempted to file the letter of complaint to the province in 2009 did not support the Women's Union of the commune.

160The Vietnam Fatherland Front and mass organizations cannot both perform their official function to mobilize the population to best implement the directives of the Party and State and become the instrument to express the demands and claims of the population, which are often contrary to official guidelines.

161Let me give another example of a major contradiction between laws and practices. It is the law on "grassroots democracy" (1998). Article 2 states:

  • 124 Laws «Grassroot Democracy», 1998, Article 2 (Official translation).

162Bringing into full play the people's mastery must be closely linked with the mechanism of "the Party leadership, State management and the people's mastery"; the representative democracy regime must be well promoted, the working quality and efficiency of the People's Councils and the People's Committees must be raised. The direct democracy regime must be well implemented in localities so that the people can directly discuss and decide important and practical issues which are closely associated with their interests.”124. »

163And Article 4: “The local administration shall have to promptly and openly inform the people of the following major things: 1. The State's policies and laws. 2. The State's and local administration's regulations on the administrative procedures for settling matters that concern people. 3. The communes' long-term and annual socio-economic development plans. 4. Land use planning and plans.” (my emphasis)

  • 125 Nguyen Ngoc Lam, 2005.

164In this specific context, local authorities are supposed to apply the law on "grassroots democracy" (1998 and 2003) and, in particular, they must inform the population on "socio-economic development plans and land use planning and plans", but this is not always the case. On the other hand, the instruments of control and coercion are not in place or are not functional, even though these laws are generally not respected. Official bodies, such as the Vietnam Fatherland Front and mass organizations, which according to their legal status, should be the mediators of the people's demands to the government, are really a means to transmit official directives to the population. The public knows that these Official Bodies will not help them and that litigation will not have serious results. The right to independent associations, in other words not controlled and managed by the State and the Party, does not exist. This law has been under discussion for over 12 years in the National Assembly125. All these factors bring into question both the local structures of governance, modes of dialogue, negotiation between the people and government, but also the conditions for the emergence of groups which may be termed “civil society”. It is precisely the role of civil society to bridge the gap between citizens and administrations, as shown in Savelsberg’s work on former communist countries of Eastern Europe:

  • 126 Savelsberg, 2000, p. 1028.

165«Civil society is not just an appreciated feature of those who applaud the participation of societal groups in government decision making in principle. Civil society also serves as a conduit or communication tool between those who formulate laws and policies and the populace. Without this tool, government policies and laws will be passed without consideration of problems and grievances as perceived by the population. Such lawmaking creates a legal reality that is profoundly disconnected from the social reality of everyday life126. »

  • 127 Giddens, 1995, pp. xiii-xiv, cited by Savelsberg, 2000, p. 1028.

166Indeed, the fundamentals of local governance such as civil society are based on the possibility for citizens to file official requests for information, and claims against the government. In short, they should provide the opportunity to engage in genuine dialogue. As we have seen in this case study, this is not yet feasible in practice, even if the legal arsenal can sometimes be misleading. This is a classic situation of Communist political systems in which all official bodies of the Party and government, including the Vietnam Fatherland Front and other mass organizations, «those who claim to represent the general [population], […] are able to suppress the views of groups who might disagree with them127. » This has been observed in Đền Thõng for the last several years.

167On the one hand, the administrative system tolerates, or turns a blind eye to, some repeated abuse from officials, while other leaders are beginning to take risky measures of social upheaval because of the pressures and constraints experienced by the population without the opportunity to have their voice heard. Christophe Gironde summarizes these concerns from an official report of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (2007) and a study from the Harvard Vietnam Program (2008):

  • 128 Gironde, 2009, pp. 262-263.

168«A concern expressed within the Vietnamese authorities about the reactions of people who accepted the end of egalitarianism and greater social differentiation in that growth has benefited the vast majority (VASS 2007: 27). In the countryside, it is the land issue, with the concentration of land and corruption, which is the more disturbing protest contained but known populations are evidence of an inability of authorities to ensure social cohesion (HVP 2008: 15)128. »

Conclusion

169We are in a situation which seems at first paradoxical, since generally the projects proposed by local authorities are largely at the request of villagers in terms of development. But in the end, there is a more or less direct opposition – and more or less physical interaction – between large groups of villagers and district and commune authorities. So, ideally, we would think that the Đền Thõng situation brings together all the elements for a «success story» of tourism development in rural areas. However we have learned through this investigation and through the media that the situation is increasingly tense and that no negotiations have been opened, despite numerous attempts made by villagers.

170This situation may seem paradoxical only if one forgets to take into account the ways in which these projects have been literally forced, sometimes with the complicity of the police, upon the villagers who owned the land needed for the projects, not to mention the lack of ability or willingness to communicate on the part of authorities who act as if the population had no opinion on the use of their land and their immediate future. But this paradox is a classic case of many development projects in Vietnam and elsewhere: the terms of reference that are the basis for these projects are often written after overly brief studies of local situations or no study at all, therefore carry very weak or null knowledge of the local situations and socio-economic balances in the existing project. In the end, most projects have little regard for local people and their opinions, and the people’s thoughts are literally being treated as "troublesome elements" for the development of the project which they sought to integrate. But I am perhaps going astray in thinking that development projects are intended to help poor people of the grassroots?

  • 129 Merely compare the price of rice and vegetables over the last 10 years with that of other commoditi (...)

171Returning to the Tam Đảo foothills, during the first project in 2005, the majority of Đền Thõng villagers were mostly positive towards the implentation of tourism projects in their villages. Moreover, many of them participated in full-time or regular tourist services and they sought their own ways to diversify their professional activities (new agricultural production: livestock, vegetables, making charcoal, tea, alpine medicinal plants and important income from migration). More generally, conventional agricultural products (rice, vegetables and fruits) are inefficient in Vietnam129. Most farmers hoping to diversify their activities even completely abandon agriculture to other higher sources of income, but the issue of security and stability of income that arises is always so acute. Similarly, the abandoning of farming often means selling the bulk of cultivated land for industrial buildings for residential or tourism projects such as in Đền Thõng. On the one hand, this sale provides a significant financial capital in the short-term, but on the other hand, creates a very stressful environment because of the loss of guaranteed capital represented by land, especially for inheritance and the establishment of new couples in the family.

172Thus, it is not as a form of resistance to development, a fear of change of professional activity or their commitment to "traditional land" that villagers have resisted the implementation of projects on their land.

173As we have shown, this is a result of poor and bad communication or no communication at all, and sometimes abusive behaviour from authorities who are responsible for the betrayal and abuse of trust among the villagers. This context, which is not unique to Đền Thõng, drives many Vietnamese villagers to cast considerable doubts on their future in the hands of unscrupulous leaders who pay no attention to them.

174In other words, the issue is not that they merely refuse to leave their farms and land, but that they refuse to leave their farms under certain conditions. The first problem is that the price of expropriated land is still under-estimated for expropriations by the state. The second is that the legal compensation and promises to push the owners to sign on quickly (108 kg of paddy per sao for five years, training to conversion to the tourism trade, exemption of tuition fees and financial aid for students of families whose lands have been expropriated) are not met. If some have, this was only fulfilled after repeated requests from villagers.

  • 130 Because the photocopy of the provincial decision is without any legal value.

175The refusal to leave farming altogether is getting stronger, even obsessive, especially when local authorities, who are responsible for the future in terms of the creation of new professions in the local area, have not kept their word since the first contracts for expropriation were made in 2005. These contracts were signed without being properly discharged by the authorities and finally are no longer "expropriations for the state" but merely "sales between individuals”, which negates all the compensation that had been promised130. Land generates a valuable source of guaranteed income, even if this remains low. Đền Thõng Villagers were ready to take the risk of partially or totally abandoning agriculture because they thought their chances for development in this field were very limited. But this career transition and the change in society at the village level could not be achieved with the help of local authorities (provincial, district and commune), who have not fulfilled their duties: they were not able to convince the villagers of the interests of tourism projects (information and lack of clear communication), they have not fulfilled their commitments in respect to expropriation (breach of trust), they have not responded, even mildly, to requests for clarification from villagers who felt excluded from projects in their village, a form of top-down projects. Alongside this cumulative set of difficulties, authorities continue to implement even larger projects without prior consultation: 1.05 ha in 2005, 51 ha in 2007 and 173 ha in 2009.

176From the data we have, we have noted that the various forms of resistance from villagers in tourism projects were based on two key factors :

  1. Economic reasons: farmers feel or know that the authorities have not taken the necessary precautions to ensure the profitability of tourism projects. In fact, the lack of market research and weak level of studies on their socio-economic risks have weighed hard on the future of many thousands of villagers. The breach of trust with local power drives villagers to seek assurances and to learn about their rights.

  2. Political and administrative reasons: we have seen that authorities were directly involved in development projects, for example through the decision to expropriate land for national development needs and through the control of these projects’ implementation and operation. But because of several cases of non-compliance with official decisions, there is a real break from the "social contract" between the people and their political representatives and administration. This failure is particularly serious because the population has no effective means to recognize their rights, or to start a dialogue or negotiations.

177In this context what are the possible scenarios for the future?

    • 131 This analysis overlaps with the Policy, Law and Development Institute on a range of several hundred (...)

    They know from experience that their fight, even though legitimate and well within reason, is doomed to failure due to the lack of effective means to enforce their rights131. They give up and try to do the best with projects that are unsustainable and imposed on them by the force of conflicting laws. But the consequence of this is that relations of trust with authorities will suffer for a long time to come.

  • Some people may have in their personal networks of family and “well placed” friends in Vĩnh Phúc Province’s People’s Committee or a relevant ministry in Hà Nội. These people will then try to use this support to assert some of their rights, but this does not apply to most villagers. The inequality of rights is a reality in Vietnam.

  • Villagers who are tired of seeing their claims rejected at the provincial level may eventually manifest their anger at a government building in Hà Nội. In a typical scenario, the police would arrive a few minutes later and take away any signs that express too explicitely their local difficulties, and villagers would remain on the sidewalk for a few hours without getting an appointment with the competent persons and eventually return home disappointed.

  • Finally, they will continue acting out their resistance against these concrete local projects (continued closure of the parking lot, and most certainly other actions). Again, the government will intervene to ensure that public order is restored.

  • 132 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

178In this paper, we have modestly related a recent history of the development of tensions between local governmental bodies and villages in reaction to a specific site. From the viewpoint of legal norms, the problem is almost impossible to resolve satisfactorily due to a major contradiction and lack of forms of independent jurisdiction. In other words, it is the various social groups (authorities at different levels) that have created legal norms and the decisions that are not respected. Meanwhile, independent jurisdictions, which should work in theory, in practice act only rarely in tensions and conflict between the population and authorities132. Only radical changes in the principles that underlie relationships between people and administration and major changes in law enforcement (Actual coordination of the different laws and standards, real hierarchy of norms, and effective monitoring and enforcement) can help prevent such blockages that are damaging “social harmony and unity”, one of the common goals of all official institutions Vietnamese society.

  • 133 Interviews made between May and September 2008.
  • 134 Bailey, 1971, p. 47.

179In conclusion I would like to repeat here the words of a person who is officially at "the head of the control laws by the commune authorities” and states that despite his official status "he has no way to enforce these laws". This is an "inspector of the people" (Thanh tra nhân dân) of the province of Nam Dinh who described the position of commune authorities and the Vietnam Fatherland Front on various local conflicts in these terms: "How is the game possible if one person is being both the player and the referee?133” Spontaneously, because this kind of situation occurs often in Vietnam, this Inspector stated that the people fits the definition of game players arbitrarily made by the anthropologist Bailey on political games: "In games, the referee is not one of the players. This is obvious: he cannot win the trophy134.”

Notes

15 Fieldwork data has been collected in July 2008 and September 2009 during the Training Workshop “Anthropological Survey Methodology” on Tam Dao Summer School 2008 and 2009 organized by Claude Arditi (EHESS – Paris), Christian Culas (CNRS – IRASEC) and Olivier Tessier (EFEO – Hà Nội). Each year, a group of 16 to 20 trainees and coordinators (Claude Arditi, Christian Culas and Olivier Tessier) have collected data and documents in the commune and villages for one week, and presented a first level of analysis for Tam Dao Summer School. I would like to sincerely thank Claude Arditi, Olivier Tessier and the trainees for their work and their knowledge of the local situation. Full texts of 2008 workshops have been published (see Culas and Tessier, 2008). There are documents available online in French and Vietnamese: http://www.tamdaoconf.com/; http://www.reseau-asie.com/cgibin/prog/pform.cgi?langue=fr&TypeListe=showdoc&Mcenter=article_standard&my_id_societe=1&PRINTMcenter=&mot_cle_show=&ID_document=594; http://www.efeo.fr/publications/ligne.shtml; http://www.vietnam.ird.fr/fr/centre/actualites/parutions.htm. Full texts of 2009 workshops are published in Arditi, Culas and Tessier «Atelier. Enquêtes de terrain: méthodes et flexibilité. Formation en sociologie et anthropologie et organisation du recueil des données», in Lagrée S., Cling J.-P., Razafindrakoto M., Roubaud F. (eds.), Les Journées de Tam Đảo. Stratégies de réduction de la pauvreté: approches méthodologiques et transversales, Université d’été en Sciences Sociales, 2010, Editions Tri Thuc, Hà Nội. [http://www.tamdaoconf.com/available online for free in July 2010 in French and Vietnamese].

16 In 2009-2010, one euro = 25,000 VND.

17 Culas and Tessier, 2009.

18 Literally "Temple of East Heaven National Mother".

19 With the Dalat Truc Lam Monastery and Truc Lam Yen Tu, Tây Thiên is one of three biggest monasteries in Vietnam. It was totally rebuilt in 2005-2006 by the best craftsmen in Vietnam, for 30 billion VND (1.2 million euros).

20 Decision 1371/QD-VHTT, 3rd August 1991.

21 Otto, 2006, p. 4.

22 March 6th 1996, the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 136/TTg. On June 15th 1996, Tam Đảo National Park was established with a total area of 36,883 ha at an altitude of 100 m a.s.l upwards.

23 For example, the book Vietnam's Famous Pagodas (originally in Vietnamese) published in 1995 by Vo Van Tuong and Huynh Nhu Phuong (Art Publisher) does not mention the name of Tây Thien Temple or other pagodas in this area.

24 In this specific context the notion of "culture" refers to specific social standards applied first at family level (gia đình văn hoá). The four main criteria: a) have a stable economic life that gradually develops, b) have a cultural, moral, healthy and wealthy (such as children’s school attendance, respect of moral values: no conflicts, no gambling, no drugs, no prostitution, etc.), c) have a clean and beautiful environment and landscape, d) implementing the law properly and the options and policies of the Party and State (Minister of Culture – Information of Vietnam, 01/02/2002, Decision No. 01/2002/QD-BVHTT).

25 Socio-economic Development Report 2006–2007, Đại Đình commune”, 2008.

26 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009.

27 Culas and Tessier, 2009.

28 Culas and Tessier, 2009, p. 312 and interviews made in 2008.

29 Interview in 2008.

30 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009.

31 General Statistics Office of Vietnam, http://www.vietnamtourism.com/f_pages/news/index.asp?loai=2&uid=5112

32 For details, see Chap. V – Some keys to understand the current tensions between villagers and local authorities, 3.b) The character " priority " of major development projects and law enforcement.

33 Pháp Lý 09/2009. One sào = 360m². 9.843.000 VND/sào = 394 euro/sào.

34 Decision NO 226/QĐ.

35 Interviews made in 2008 and 2009, and Pháp Lý, 09/2009.

36 Interviews made in 2009.

37 The 30ha announced in the media does not include the roads and empty spaces of the central part of the project. The central project's total area is in fact 51.1 ha. We do not have the exact surface information regarding the project that involves the land running along the river beds of the stream that runs from Den Thuong temple. However, it does cover several hectars.

38 Khu trung tâm lễ hội Tây Thiên”

39 Map reproduced in Otto, 2006, p. 46. We have not presented it here because of the poor quality of the document.

40 505 Euros/sào.

41 Otto, 2006, p. 42.

42 Dự án đầu tư xây dựng phát triển khu trung tâm lễ hội Tây Thiên”.

43 baotuyenquang.com.vn Theo VNN 06/12/2009.

44 1264 Euros/sào. The cost of land according to their status has been published on 27/07/2009 by «Decision NO 2279/QD-UBND» Vĩnh Phúc province’s People’s Committee.

45 Decision NO 2279/QD-UBND, 27/07/2009: "Approval of the general plan of compensation, support and settlement services to the book: the central area of Tây Thiên cultural festival.”

46 http://www.baovinhphuc.com.vn/front-end/index.php?type=ARTICLE&fuseaction=DISPLAY_SINGLE_ARTICLE&website_id=1&channel_id=314&parent_channel_id=312&article_id=14145, accessed 24/02/2010.

47 Trung tâm văn hóa lễ hội Tây Thiên và dự án cáp treo lên khu di tích thắng cảnh Tây Thiên”, from http://tinmoi.phanvien.com/338/vinh-phuc-260-ty-dong-cho-cap-treo-tay-thien.html; 06/12/2009.

48 Here, Mẫu (“Mother”), in the religious and mythical context, as in Tây Thiên Quốc Mẫu Temple (literally "Temple of East Heaven National Mother")

49 http://tinmoi.phanvien.com/338/vinh-phuc-260-ty-dong-cho-cap-treo-tay-thien.html

50 Around 21.88 million euros. http://tinmoi.phanvien.com/338/ vinh-phuc-260-ty-dong-cho-cap treo-tay-thien.html

51 vietnamnet. vn, 05/12/2009.

52 19.28 million Euros.

53 Official website of Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport.

54 vietnamnet. vn, 05/12/2009.

55 According to official website of Vĩnh Phúc province: http://tnmtvinhphuc.gov.vn/index.php?nre_vp=News&in=viewst&sid=1711, 22.07.2009. Consulted 15/01.2010.

56 Decision NO 2279/QD-UBND on 27/07/2009, «Approval of plan for compensation, support and settlement services to the project: the cultural center area of the festival Tây Thiên», Vĩnh Phúc province’s People Committee.

57 For everyday forms of resistance, often invisible and difficult to grasp in sociological surveys, see Michel de Certeau, in L’Invention du quotidien (The Invention of Everyday), 1981: the « stratégies d’accommodement», “compromise strategies” of social groups without official power.

58 Đền Thõng villagers’letter of complaint (2009) and Gia đình & Xã hội, 22/01/2010.

59 Data from 2008 and 2009 interviews.

60 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

61 Pháp Lý, 09/2009.

62 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

63 In May 2005, information from Commune People's Committee information mentioned 10,554.7m², but Vĩnh Phúc Province People's Committee Decision No. 226/QĐ-UBND (25/01/2006) concerned the recovery of 10,723 m2. Which is the correct figure?

64 «Implementation of Resolution No. 20/2008 of the People's Council of Vĩnh Phúc Province».

65 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

66 Pháp Lý 09/2009.

67 Pháp Lý 09/2009.

68 «Sở Tài nguyên và Môi trường: Trả lời kiến nghị của cử tri tại kỳ họp thứ 15 HĐND tỉnh. » http://tnmtvinhphuc.gov.vn/index.php?nre_vp=News&in=viewst&sid=1711, 22.07.2009

69 «Land Law 2003, Article 39 «Recovering land for use for purposes of defense, security, national interests, public interests. 1. The State shall recover land, pay compensations, clear ground after the land use plannings and/or plans are publicized or when the investment projects with the land use demands being in line with the land use plannings and/or plans are considered and approved by competent State agencies. 2. At least ninety (90) days before land recovery, for agricultural land, and 180 days, for non-agricultural land, the competent State agencies shall have to notify the persons with land to be recovered of the reasons for recovery, time and plan for evacuation, the overall schemes for compensations, ground clearance and resettlement. »

70 Gia đình & Xã hội, 03/02/2010.

71 Collected during surveys from 2009.

72 «Phát triển kinh tế nhưng phải tôn trọng luật pháp!» (Thien Nhien [Nature], 15/08/2007).

73 See Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

74 Official translation.

75 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 3.

76 According to interviews made in 2009 and Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

77 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010-22/01/2010. http://giadinh.net.vn/home/20100122084745405p0c1000/khuat-tat-quanh-bai-do-xe-khu-danh-thang-tay-thien-vinh-phuc-tinh-chua-quyet-huyen-da-lam-xong.htm, 21 03 10.

78 Gia đình & Xã hội, 22/1/2010.

79 Gia đình & Xã hội.

80 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

81 Gia đình & Xã hội Newspaper (22/01/2010) describes an interview with an officer from the District who claims to be the main shareholder of Bình Minh Company. This company owns the car park of 1.05 ha and is responsible for its operation. We know from other interviews (2009) that this officer is also the one who pushed the villagers to sign sales deeds for their land in 2005. Proceeds from the sale of parking tickets for the project-Phase 3 will be considerable (see figure for location of parking in the centre of this project).

82 Three entertainment activities that are strongly connected with the «sex trade» in Vietnam.

83 In 2006, GTZ experts conducted surveys over a few days on the technical implementation of Tourist projects in Tam Đảo National Park, without any special attention paid to social issues.

84 Development and Partial Finalisation of Sustainable Tourism Development Concepts for Key Areas in Tam Đảo National Park, Vietnam, November 2006, Tam Đảo, p. 94, on behalf of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)

85 Otto, 2006, p. 1.

86 Otto, 2006, p. 42.

87 Decision on “Regulation on Management and Exploitation of Tây Thiên Tourist Site” Tam Đảo, 3rd November, 2005, Tam Đảo District People’s Committee, No 701/2005/QD-UB.

88 Interview made in 2009.

89 This huge project (600 ha and 300 millions USD) stopped totally in September 2007 under pressure from environmental associations (Vietnam National Parks and Protected Areas Association: Hội Bảo vệ Thiên nhiên và Môi trường Việt Nam), scientists and the media (Anonymous, 2007).

90 Prime Minister of Vietnam, 17 May 2002, “List of national projects calling for foreign direct investment in the 2001-2005 period”, Decision No. 62/2002/QD-TTg.

91 UBND Vĩnh Phúc, 2006, “Essential Report on the ecotourism Project Tam Đảo and Tây Thiên”. [in Vietnamese].

92 Report Vĩnh Phúc Provincial People’s Committee, March 2005.

93 Otto, 2006, p. 20 annexe.

94 «Danh thắng Tây Thiên-tầm vóc khu du lịch trọng điểm của tỉnh và quốc gia» [Tây Thiên Scenic magnitude of key tourist areas of the province and country] VinhPhuconline 25/03/2010 http://www.baovinhphuc.com.vn/frontend/index.php?type=ARTICLE&fuseaction=DISPLAY_SINGLE_ARTICLE&website_id=1&channel_id=321&parent_channel_id=321&article_id=15331.

95 See Official Website of Ministry Of Natural Resources and Environment, “Eliminate More Than 50 Golf Course Projects, NA Advised,” http://www.monre.gov.vn/monreNet/default.aspx?tabid=254&ItemID=66977, consulted 25/03/2010, and Thanh Nien News, 06/13/2009

96 For the prohibition of 7 golf projects around Ho Chi Minh City city, see Tuoi Tre, 04/05/09.

97 Pháp Lý, 09/2009.

98 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

99 Gia đình & Xã hội, 20/01/2010.

100 On means of appointing judges and lawyers in Vietnam, and the levels of judicial independence in Vietnam, see Salomon (2004), Thayer (2008), Hoang Ngoc Giao (2009).

101 The case of the Tây Thiên project is not isolated, in many projects of local economic interests (under the control of local administration) come before any considerations for local populations. The film "Who owns the land?" (Vietnamese original title "Đất đai thuộc về ai?" director: Đoàn Hồng Lê, produced by Ateliers Varan Vietnam et le Studio National du film documentaire et scientifique, 2010, duration: 54'48 ") illustrates the strong social problems in the case of construction of a golf course near Da Nang.

102 Part of the administrative documents are certainly unknown.

103 See Abuza (2000) and Salomon (2004).

104 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

105 In 2008-2009, with the Franco-Vietnamese Graduate School of Law, and with the support of its coordinator Carole Cayssials and Vietnamese Ph. D candidates, most of which are already legal professionals in Vietnamese institutions.

106 In comparison, private law, in particular the branch of business law, is highly developed in Vietnam since the Đổi Mới renovation. It is also the branch that offers the best career opportunities and remuneration. For available studies, see Nicholson (2003) and Nicholson and Nguyen Q.H. (2007).

107 According to Carole Cayssials (2008) “Application of research Project in National Research Agency - ANR,"To govern and to be governed".” See also Fforde (1986), Sidel (1994) and Gillespie (2005).

108 Nguyen Van Suu in this Occasional Paper and Janet C. Sturgeon and Thomas Sikor (2004) “Post–Socialist Property in Asia and Europe: Variation on ‘Fuzziness’” in Conservation & Society, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1–17; Katherine Verdery (2004) “The Property Regime of Socialism” in Conservation & Society, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 189–198.

109 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 12).

110 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 3).

111 Not only is it not an effective tool in assisting state administrative organs to settle citizens’ complaints, but the mechanism itself has become a factor in stimulating the increase of complaints and making those complaints even more complicated and long lasting.” (Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 3).

112 See Nguyen Thi Thanh Bình’s chapter in this Occasional Paper for specific examples.

113 In LInvention du quotidien (Invention of Everyday), 1981.

114 «Tactiques d’accommodement» in French.

115 See his article in this book.

116 As provided by the Law on Complaints and Denunciations, citizens can only exercise his/her right to complain directly. In cases where more than one person share the same grounds for their complaints (for example, they all were moved from their home to make way for an industrial park, or suffered from environmental pollution from the same source, etc.), each complainant must write a separate complaint letter. As such, the law does not recognize collective complaints while ensuring the individual right to complain.” (Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009, p. 12).

117 We will not discuss here the role of lawyers in the administration. For further information, see Salomon (2004) and Hoang Ngoc Giao (2009).

118 Mặt Trận Tổ Quốc Việt Nam.

119 In 2009, the Vietnam Fatherland Front had produced and controlled 31 social, political, technical, educational or cultural associations. This allows the State/Party to have a grip on the entire spectrum of associational activities in the country.

120 This topic will be analysed in a book on the emergence of civil society in Vietnam (forthcoming 2010).

121 Article 1, Law on the Vietnam Fatherland Front, June 12, 1999”... the entire people’s great solidarity bloc is built up, the people’s mastery is brought into full play, where its members hold consultative meetings, and coordinate and unify their actions, thus contributing to the firm maintenance of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and successfully carrying out the cause of national industrialization and modernization, so as to achieve the objective of a prosperous people, a strong country and an equitable and civilized society.”

122 Nguyen Thê Anh, 1992.

123 Data from Surveys in Lao Cai (2003 à 2009), Surveys in Nam Dinh (2006 à 2009), Surveys in Bac Ninh (2007), Surveys in Đền Thõng – Vĩnh Phúc (2008-2009).

124 Laws «Grassroot Democracy», 1998, Article 2 (Official translation).

125 Nguyen Ngoc Lam, 2005.

126 Savelsberg, 2000, p. 1028.

127 Giddens, 1995, pp. xiii-xiv, cited by Savelsberg, 2000, p. 1028.

128 Gironde, 2009, pp. 262-263.

129 Merely compare the price of rice and vegetables over the last 10 years with that of other commodities to convince the unprofitable character of traditional agriculture. Some specific products, such as “clean” vegetables (rau sạch), vegetables from "sustainable agriculture", “organic” vegetables (rau hữu cơ) and medicinal plants, can have higher incomes. See Moustier, Vagneron et Bui Thi Thai (2004), Gironde (2001), Gironde (2009)

130 Because the photocopy of the provincial decision is without any legal value.

131 This analysis overlaps with the Policy, Law and Development Institute on a range of several hundred cases in Vietnam (Hoang Ngoc Giao 2009).

132 Hoang Ngoc Giao, 2009.

133 Interviews made between May and September 2008.

134 Bailey, 1971, p. 47.

Table des illustrations

Titre Number of customers at Hotel Văn Hóa (2006-2007)
Légende Source: Culas and Tessier, 2009, p. 313
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 80k
Légende Poster of the Tây Thiên temples complex (Photo: Team Tam Dao Summer School 22/09/2009).
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 184k
Légende “Eight feet tree” front of Đền Thõng temple (Source: C. Culas 21/09/2009)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 392k
Légende General map of the "Tây Thiên-Tam Đảo-Vinh Phuc Famous Site" 2007-2009, total area of 51.1 ha. (Source C. Culas 07/2008)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Légende Second temple (Đền Cậu) along the trail. In 2011-2012, a cable station will be built here at an altitude of 120 m. (Source: C. Culas 21/09/2009)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 260k
Légende General map "Development Projects for Construction in the Central Area for the Tây Thiên Festival" 2009-2013, total area 163ha (including the surface of Project 2 Phase 2). (Source: N.H. Manh, 22/09/2009)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 416k
Légende December 5th 2009: Opening cerenony of Tây Thiên cableway project.“Comrades: Trịnh Đình Dũng, member of Party Central Committee, Secretary; Nguyễn Ngọc Phi, Deputy Secretary of Provincial Committee, president of province’s People’s Committee; Phùng Quang Hùng, member of Standing Provincial Party Committee, Permanent Vice-Chairman of province’s People’s Committee and delegates participating in inaugurating the construction of the cultural centre and festivals Tây Thiên cableway project.” (Source: Vĩnh Phúc Province official website, Quang Nam46)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Conflict between villagers and a bulldozer driver on the task of extending the parking area: 23/09/2009 (Source N. T. Quỳnh 09 2009)
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Légende On November 20, 2009, the Gateway parking is blocked by the villagers, a few days before the Official Opening ceremony of Tây Thiên cableway78.
URL http://books.openedition.org/irasec/docannexe/image/825/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 110k

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