The Vietnamese Land Reform Law
Introduction by NGUYEN NGOC PHACH
RECEIV.e:O JUN 24 1970
THE VIETNAM COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS Ofllcers
Tran Van Lam, President Nguyen Duy Tai, Vice-President Nguyen Ngoe Linh, Secretary Genera! Lai Bao, Assistant Secretary Genera! Mrs. Tang Thi Thanh Trai, Treasurer Directors
Vuong Van Bae Wang Tsio-Yong Ngo Khac Tinh Pham Quy Dao Trinh Binh Gobind Daswani Mrs. Huynh Ngoc Anh
Nguyen Ngoe Linh
Pu blished by THE VIETNAM COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS P. O. Box 932, Saigon, Republic of Vietnam
NGUYEN NGOC PHACH Formerly with the B.B.C. in London, Radio Viet Nam, the Saigon Post and the Viet Nam Inquirer, Mr. Phach is presently Lecturer at the Department of Journalism, Dalat University, and press ·correspondent for London-based newspapers.
The Vietnamese Land Reform Law
Introduction by NGUYEN
' EFER,EM~~r~,... R INTRODUCTION ~ \\""'
The history of Land Reform in Vietnam is avery long story, indeed. It sta~ted many years ago and certainly is not apout to come to an ,end soon. It ia, also a story of multiple trials and repeated .tailur,es" which someh,,0, w"ha, s never b,een told in its enti,rety , pre.. â€˘ enting students of' Vietnamese affairs from assessing its real impact on Vietnamese society. As a political instrument, Land Reform was resorted to as early as the late twenties when the Viet-nam Quoc-dan-dang NQDD) and the Dong-duong Cong-san-dang or Indochina Comunist Party (TCP) - - the two wings of the Vietnamese Revoution -- started competing for the' allegiance of the masses in their efforts to overthrow the French colonial regime. The conversion by the VNQDD of quite a few North Vietnamese villages into' fortresses against the French army in its abortive revolt of the early thirties,' ahd the establishment by the ICP of more than a Soviet in Nghe-an and Ha-tinh provinces at approximately the same time can be taken as illustrative examples of the efficiency of the notion of Land Reform as an instrument of political, struggle. The failure of both wings - - nationalist and communist - - of heVietnamese Revolution to achieve anything prior to the end â€˘ f World War II" however, kept whatever their theoreticians had said, of Land .Reform from growing into anything practical. For years, it remained a maze of ideas, often conflicting, that only received a beginning of implementation two, decades later with two different styles. â€˘ In North Vietnam, one has to. wait until the early fifties to see the 'Communist-dominated regime officially order the confiscation of big land holdings. The series of decrees promulgated by the late Ho Chi Minh, however, were not 'really intended for a redistribution of land, in Communist-controlled areas. Immediately after the Communist Viet Minh took over political powers in North Vietnam in August 194;5, big land-holding families found it too risky or impossible to live in the countryside. Practically all landlords went to the cities and left their land to the care of their tenants - - without getting any benefit from it. Tenants had become de facto masters of the land they tilled. As the war expanded, turning the Vietnamese into a nation of migrators constantly moving from one area to another, hun.
dreds of thousands of hectares were left uncultivated or were exploited by squatters. Landlords as an active class had all but disappeared. Big estates had ceased to be economic factors of any impact on the economic life of the nation. It was in these conditions that the Communist Land Reform took shape in North Vietnam. Without big estates to, divide among landless farmers, Communist leaders, turned ideological ire ant" those owning and exploiting a few hectares and presented them a~ «members of the wicked landlord class.» Kangoroo courts were established to try and convict tens of thousands of persons, whose only crime was their relative affluence. Even according to conservative estimates, some 50,000 person. lost their lives in North Vietnam during the 1954-56 period. The Communist Agrarian Reform:made so many Victims that jacqueries bro,ke out practically everywher~, especially in Quynh-luu. Ho Chi Minh possibly saved the situation and his regime by dismissing Truong Chinh, the, main culprit, from the secretary g",neralship of the Lao-dong (Communist) Party. FifteeJ;l years later, however, North Vietnamese peasants' can hardly claim to be owning their land. All North Vi"'tnamese land now belongs to the government, and farmers on the other side of the 17th Parallel are nothing but tenants working fora huge corporation, the North Vietnamese administration. Communist the.' oreticians explain this return to tenancy by calling it' «collectiv ownership» but this syllogism convinces nobody but their m()st faithful followers. In South Vietnam, the need for land redistribution, of c()urse, was more acute and real, the Mekcmg, ,delta being less densel'" populated than the fted River delta aJ;ld cqastalplains and a greaY ter percentage of la,nd being, il) the hands of landlords. Indeed, in 1945, some 6,000 landowners held ~.2 million hectares 9f paddyfield and 430 French citizens owned, 250,000 hectares of cultivated land. Still according to 1945 figures, 80 per cent of the land in the Mekong delta was c1.i1tivatedby'tenants. 'Rental I'Iltes were at a high 50 percent and interest rlltes' and charges' f6l:' loans of equipment ap.a animal were also excessive. Also,with Chinese middlemen buyiLg rice at harvest tIme arid se1!ing it' later at a profit, no wonder the peasants' of South, Vietnam did, not have-a decent life.. : 4
The late Ngo Dinh Diem S'IlW the need for land redistribution as early as 1956 when he signed Ordinance 57 limiting ownership of paddy land to 100 hectares and imposing lower land rents. Diem's scheme, however, failed to bring about 4dramatie improvE!'ment in the life of the peasants. There were stilI too many tenants and the government's edict was not fully respected by all concerned. â€˘ Diem's scheme only had a beginning of Implementation. It never was completed. As the countryside grew more insecure, it was all but forgotten after a few hundred thousand hectares had been distributed. Following Diem's death, the endless political troubles in Saigon and the expanding military conflict outside _ he cities created in South Vietnam a situation similar to what ad been recorded in the .Red River Delta a dozen years before. Also, countryfolks by the million left their ricefields and took refuge in the townships, turning South Vietnam from a riceexporting nation into one having to import hundreds of thousands of tons of this basic staple each year. Except for a few exceptional provinces like An-giang, where security had prevailed year in year out, peasants had more land than they could or wonld cultivate. Only after the Viet Cong Tet offensive of the early days of 1968, did the number of refugees decline. As pacification made big .trides in the. following two years. ' riC. elds throughout the na.tion .nce again were farmed. Experiments with the IR.S orÂˇ miracle rice seeds also were made that successfully proved a higher standard of living could be achieved by working a smaller plot of land. Moreover, the leaders in Saigon were aware that the pacification gains must be comsolidated by greater popular allegiance to . As cause. After re-establishing village autoliomy,. they naturally ~houghtof giving the villagers something more concrete and visible than the pride to belong to a self-governing community. Economic affluence was thought to be the best of, such reml:i1ders . . In a way, they are right. For the average Vietnamese villag~r, nothing is more easily identifiable than the land. he Works. If. he should oWn the land he tills, he will have something to fight. for. He will be less prone to yielding to terror as apolitical instrument. He will be less tempted to stay out of the conflict by simply moving away from contested areas. He will be made a more active . member of the community. But had Agr.arian Reform been conceived as a purely political instrument things may take a different turn. Indeed, as anJlluaell.
tratio~ one m!\y point to Ji,anQi's.redistribut.ion .of land· which h-as . failed to result in a better .st!\lJ.d!\rd of living for its people. In contrast, the 1'aiwan.plan, has .turned a. tra4jtionally rice-defl.cient jsl!\nd into,.a.,r\ce:exporting country altqough Taiwan has less ara ble land and more mouths to feed. per squar", mile than North Vietnam. . It is to the credit of South Vietnamese leaders that the «Landto-the-Tiller. prograIn not only seeks greater popular adhesion the political cauSe they represent but also., a greater degree of social justice in a. country where peasants have always done more than .their shares and. received less than their .due. .' . When the new Land Reform !program is to be completed, -an additional 800,000 farmers .now living in a state of tenancy Wi... own. some 1.3 million hect-ares of rice land. Vietnam will then become ,11 nation of l/.md-owners. Also,. by giving them this land freeof charge, the Preside)1t. has chqsen to force other segments of tlte South Vietnl,lmese population to shoulder the cost of the 50-billion program. ' . ; Indeed,. if one knQws th!\tduring the past 20 years some 30 percent of the nation's population have peen taking about 70 percent of the country's gross national product, one must agree to the truly revolutionary measure President Thieu took last March 26 when he promulgated into law the .Land-to-the-Tiller. bill .in Can Tho. The time, indeed, haS come for city-dwellers to give a • hand to their brothers in the countryside. . .. Th.is is not ,to say that the ()l.\r~",p.tt!\l1d Eeform. is bound to succeed. Difficulties are st~ll many that may endanger the program and . cause)ts collapse. Eresident Thieu apPII-rently is aware of these stum1;>!ing. bloc.ks.,~e hi1l1self,wi)l1;>e,.r!lsPQnsible f~r this ~chem• .that naturally will have an inccimpl1.raJ:ile impact on the life of th nation in. the many year~ to come. .... ' " .' ' . . :. , ..The sale'mnity with Which the.« Land-to-the~Tiller» bill was prQmulgated, . at . least, indicates. an inte:nse awareness at the top echelon of the. South. Viet:namese .government that it must succe~ in '. the, undertaking If this nation offlU'mers. is to get out of' its pres¢)1tpredjc1ul).,en.t with f1yin(color'$', .... " '. . . BuUrQmwhatever angle one mayl~ok at it,tlte~urrent Land Reform. scheme is the mo~t·serious. attt;!mptevt;!r mru;le in.Vietnam . to bring about a better distribution of the nation's wealth.
NhVY:E~ NdpC;~Plj:ACli .
OBJECTIVES AND IMPLEMENTATION
The« imed at:
policy set forth by this law is .
Pr(')viding oWlhership> to farmers actually tilling theiT land and allowing them to enjoy allthebenefits'pf their labor,'" ' - Giving equal opportunities to' ailf~rme~s, . -
In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, the following measures shall be applied : 1. Expropriating with fail' compensation lands which are not direc~y tilled by l8illdown~s, for fr,ee distr~bution to farmers. .
" "',. '
2. Eliminating farm tenancy and abuse of accumulative land ". '. , sub-lease by ,llliddlemen,' "
• . 3. Distrjbuting ;c<?mrnuql\lriceland, .' ,
SCOPE OF. APPLICATION ARTICLE
" " ,
This law applies 'to riceland and secondary cropland belonging to private persons or legal entitie!i, under public or private jurisdiction. . ARTICLE
Land recorded in the Land RegiS'4er under t!)e name of one owner shall be considered .as a single private property unit. Any transfer =t· registered prior to the promulgation date of this law is null and void. Land registered separately under the names of a man and his wife shall be considered as a simgle private property unit, except In case of marriage under the separate property system. ARTICLE
.dIles. ~otapPlY .to the' following· c:a'tegories or land : .
1. Lend actually tilled by landowners or their spouses, parent\!,
children, or legal heirs, not exceeding 15 hectares. Landowners actually cultivating. have the right to hire laborers. 2. Ances'tral worship land: Huong Hoa., Ha.u Dien, and Dien, and cemetery land not exceedimg five hectares for each family, 3. Ricefields presently owned by religious organizations. 4. Industrial cropland and orchard land (excluding crops havinga life-time of less than one year), 5. Ricelandalready transformed into industrial building sites.
6. Salt-fields, lakes and ponds, and pasture land in livestock farms. 7. Cropland situated in the areas to be reserved for city planning projects, residential areas, and gardens.
8. Cropland in experimental centers and, agricultural pilot centers. 9. Cropland specifically reserved for Montagnard Buons and hamlets in accordance with. Decree-Laws 033/67 and 034/67 dated August 29, 1967. 10. Cropland to be used for public utility purposes. 11.. Land that is cleared. under concession after promulgation
of this law and has never been cultivated. ARTICLE
Categories of land indicated in items 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 11 of Article 5 shall be governed by separate supplemental laws. Any change in land use aimed at evading the application of this. law shall be considered null and void.
• • 9
LANDOWNERS' COMPENSATION ARTICLE 7
Landowners having their land expropriated shal! be compensated quickly and reasonably.
. The rate of compensation will pe determined by a Special. Committee. This Committee shal! be established by a Decree. ARTICLE 8
The rate of compensation shall be equhralent to two and one half times the annual income in paddy from the land. Annual income means the average income during the past five years. ARTICLE
Landowners shall be compensated as fol!ows: -- 20 % of the value of the expropriated land shall be paid. immediately in cash. - The remainder shall be paid in bonds guaranteed by the Government over eight years and bear 10 % interest. If the land ownership and usufruct right belong to two different persons, the compensation to each of them shall also be deter-. mined by the above-mentioned Special Committee. ARTICLE
Bonds may be pledged, tral!lSferred, used as payment of mort·· gage and payment of land tax, or to buy shares in private or national enterprises. ARTICLE
Rights of privileged creditors, pledgers, mortgagers, or debts of heirs shall become the creditors' rights with respect to the amOlmt of compensation to landowners based on the legal statutes of the land in the Land Register.
'Landfor redistributicm shall be distributed free of charge to .,eachfarmer's family with a maximuilU.路area of : ,
Three hectares in Southern Vietnam.
One hectare in Central Vietnam.
A farmer's family is composed pf parents, spouse, and children living together in a house and listed on the family record. ARTICLE
j;..a,nd for redistributi<liI\ sh,all be distributed in the following torder of priority: '.. . . .... . 1. Present tillers. Prasent>t:illers are those who are cultivating
the land which belongs to other persons. 2. Parents, spouse, or children of war dead, if they have mitted an application for路 land for direct cultiyation.
3. Soldiers, civil servants, and cadre when discharged or retired, if they have submitted an application for land for direct .cultivation. 4. Soldiers, civil servants, and cadre having abandoned cultivation because of the war, if they have submitted an appli. , .cation for land for their family to cultivate it themselves. 5.Far,m laborers,. if they have submitted an application for . land. f9r direct cultivation. In any elise, .the land distributed plus the land already owned area fixed in Article 12.
ARTICLE 14 Persons receiving land are exempted from registration tax, stamp tax, land fees,and all other fees relating to the transfer of land, and shall be exempted from any tax related to the d~stribution in the first year. . ARTICLE 15 Persons receiving land must cultivate it themselves.
For a period of fifteen years starting from the date they become owners, persons receiving land diS'~ributed under this law. cannot transfer ownership, or agree to establish real right on the land received except in case of prior authorization from the Government. A person whO has sold distributed land, or his spouse, shall not be given land a second time. ARTICLE 16 Any farmer who has received expropriated land under Ordinance 57 or former French-owned land and has not completed purchase payments to the Government shall be exempted from. payment of the balance due. Persons who have paid over 50 % of the purchase price shall no't be subject to Article 15, paragraph 2 of this law. .
'Any person who, ·attempts to impede the implementation of this.1aw shall be liable to an imprisonment term from six months to three years and/or a fine from VN$ 20,000 to VN$ 200,000.
Any landowner, as determined in Article 5, paragraph 1, who , does not directly ,cultjya,te :hls land shall have it expropriated with.ou t compensation. 'ARTICLE 19
Any farmerviolatihgArti&1i 15 by not directly cultivating the land shall ,have it. exprppria.t~without compensation. The land shall be redistributed to other farmers under the provisions of this .aw. ARTICLE 20
All lawsuits that occur in the implementation of this law shal! rejUdged by the Land Court, composed of professional judges. All vio,lations under the provisions of the penal law shall be judged by a criminal court. •
GENERAL PROVISIONS ARTICLE 21.
Procedures for implementation of this .law shall be prescribed by Decree. ARTICLE
All provisions contrary to this law shall be cancelled.
This law shall be promulgated by emergency procedures and published in the Official Gazette of the Rep~blic of':Vletnam. Saigon March 26, 1970
The Presiden.t of the Rep!1blic of Vietnam NGUYEN VAN THIEU
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