2011-03-03 The Internet, the spirit, the resistance – How the Internet fuels voices of dissent in Vietnam

Despite the fact that the communist government firmly controls the Internet and blocks any web sites that might be any ‘threat to national security’, the Internet silently mends the fire of dissent voices simultaneously around Vietnam.

Courage cannot be ‘centralized’ – Farmers protest against arbitrary land seizures with the help of Internet

In a tightly controlled, Facebook-blocked country, Vietnamese farmers marched out to the Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s second largest city and a national economic hub, to resist the government’s decision to seize their land.

Due to the centralized economy, government authorities are sole legal actors who can switch legal status of any land. Besides, the legal procedure of dealing with various different land rights of the government and farmers are extremely complicated, which becomes the central loophole allowing public officials to blur the line where exact responsibilities lie.

Exploiting this, lots of corrupt officials can take away seemingly profitable lands, handing tiny amount of compensation money to the land owners. The victims mostly fail to find the proper government authorities to get the fair compensation due to the blurred responsibility.

Government officials have been arbitrarily ‘robbing’ the lands as huge ‘development plans’ have swept the major urban cities into the swirl of dazzling real estate speculation. The real estate prices have hit thousands of dollars per square meter, which made both cities involved in the ‘Most Expensive Cities in the World’ list. However, Vietnam has the lowest real estate transparency index among 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Nguyen Van Suu, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology of Vietnam National University, argued in his paper that the compulsory seizure shows the reality of ‘thousands of Vietnamese farmers have to satisfy their main traditional means of production, for the play of a few hundred wealthy people’(Nguyen, 2009). The seized lands are reformed as luxury golf courses, urban residential areas, tourism sites, and other infrastructures.

In spite of immediate, violent crackdown of the government which leads to long jail terms and even to death, protest against the land seizures becoming notably frequent, spreading around the country. Phillip Robertson in Human Rights Watch told Al Jazeera that due to the Internet, now lots of farmers can see what’s happening around the world and gather important information, which is playing an important role in recent years’ increasing number of protests in Vietnam.

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