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LAND REFORM LAND REFORM IN VIET路NAM: A HISTORICAL BACK路 GROUND

Ever since 1945 when Viet-N am regained her independence, the question of land reform has been regarded as of paramount importance by every government of the land, whether nationalist or communist, in the North or in the South. The Communists were the first to take the initiative, but in their haste to cater to the needs of the peasantry (which formed 80 percent of tqe population) the Communists disregarded many socio-economic aspects and cultural dimensions, which made for a brutal land reform campaign that finally had to be called off in 1956. While realizing that to insure social justice in Viet-Nam an equitable pattern of land ownership must be established and effectively maintained, the various nationalist regimes have tried to proceed more deliberately so as not to disrupt the social fabric and to insure a minimum degree of fairness to everyone concerned. Under the French domination period, injustices abounded in the land tenure system. In 1945 some 6,000 landowners held 1.2 million hect路 ares (nearly 3 million acres) of cultivated land in the southern portion of Viet-Nam which included the Mekong Delta where 430 French nationals owned 250,000 hectares and where 80 percent of the land was cultivated by tenants. Rental rates were as high as 50 percent sometimes and the tenants had to compete for the favor of the land. owners. Early in 1951, ex-Emperor Bao Dai, then Chief of State of VietNam, proclaimed the institution of a land tenure reform program, but a committee in charge of the reform was not organized until late 1952. By then, political difficulties and the military situation did not allow' the implementation of the program. In 1956, President Ngo Dinh Diem of the First Republic decreed a l00-hectare limit (about 247 acres) to riceland ownership (Ordinance 57). Any excess holding of land would be expropriated and the land sold to the peasants. The owners got 10 percent of the land price in cash and the remaining 90 percent in government bonds redeemable over 12 years. However, the redistribution of land to the peasants under the Diem regime proceeded too slowly. From 1957 to 1963 only about 50 percent of the expropriated lands was redistributed, and the level remained substantially the same until 1968. Besides, thel00-hectareceiling left only some 452,000 hectares available for expropriation and later re1


distribution. As a result of this restricted program, only about 100,000 benefited from the measures taken out a total of some one million tenant families in the Delta. The Constitution of the Second Republic, promulgated in April 1967, emphasized in Article 19, "The State advocates a policy of making the people property owners," and in Article 21, "The State advocates raising the standard of living of rural citizens and especially helping farmers to have land for cultivation." To prepare for the new land reform, in April 1969, the govermnent ordered a freezing of current land occupancy and rents for one year. This prevented landlords from changing tenants before new land programs could go into effect. The freezing of rents permitted tenants to retain all the increased returns due to better productivity from using fertilizers and/or new seeds. At the same time, the government proceeded to speed up the distribution of lands expropriated under the old law. In ten years from 1957 to 1967, only 245,000 he"ctares were distributed. Since the new land reform program was conceived, from early 1968 to the end of 1969, 100,000 more hectares were given to 50,000 families of farmers. The government planned to distribute the remaining 70,000 hectares in the first six months of this year. In June 1969, a bill entitled "Land-to-the-Tiller Policy" was approved by the Cabinet and sent to the National Assembly on July 2. The principles of the new program were: 1. Farmers tilling the land, with or without contracts, will be encouraged to make application for ownership. Landlords will be compensated by the

Central Government. 2. Farmers tilling comtnunal land, or land belonging to religious groups,

will also receive titles. Expropriated religious groups will be compensated. Villages will receive limited compensation for Government-owned cornmon.lland. 3. Titles will be issued by the Village Administrative Committee and registered with the Province and Central Government. 4. Present farmers. upon receiving title to the land they farm, will be entered on the village land register and the village tax rolls. They will pay taX to their Village Administration Committee. They will not pay back rents or back taxes. S. Compensation to landlords will be a percentage down~payment in cash and the remainder in government bonds. These bonds will be negotiable" indexed to the price of rice paddy and will bear interest. 6. The price of each plot of land will be determined by local officials !lccording to government guidelines, based on an average yield during the past five years.

The new plan involved a rotal of about 1,000,000 hectares of rice land and about 800,000 farmers stiIlliving in .a state of tenancy were to be given land. To compensate the landlords, the government woulc\ pay 20 percent down payment in cash and the remaining 80 percent would be paid over a period of eight years in government bonds. The biIl was discussed in the House of Representatives and the House passed it last September 9. The bill was then sent to the Senate and the latter passed it on March 6. After Senate passage, the bill was sent back ,(0 the House and on March 16, the House approved the Senate version and sent it to the Executive. Today, March 26, 1970 President Thieu decrees this bill into law. 2


A oomprehensive Land program: Together with the land they receive, the farmers of Viet-Nam are assured government assistance in credit, fertilizer, seed and machinery. Here, President Nguyen Van Thieu is shown trying on a thresher given to farmers in Ba Xuyen Province on February 2, 1970.


(Above) President Nguyen Van Thieu personally hands out titles to cultivating farmers of Vinh Long Province in a ceremony held February 28, 1970. (Left) President Thieu addressing farmers at a land redistribution ceremony he l d on February 28, 1970. Overhead banner says, ' Title Distribution Ceremony of Expropriated and Frenchowned Land s to New Owners. '


Farmers turn out to welcome the President of the Republic of Viet -Nam during a recent land redistribution campaign.


The bill passed by both Houses was substantially the same as sent to the National Assembly by president Thieu last July. The limit of land ownership is now 15 hectares (37 .acres). All other land will be taken over by the government for redistribution free to the farmers. About one million hectares (roughly 2.5 million acres) of land owned by about 16,000 landlords will be affected by the law. The cost involved in the program, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, was estimated at about 400 million U.S. dollars. With the law just passed, the likelihood is strong that the cost might climb even further. This money will be used to pay compensation to the landowners. The law states that 20 percent of the value of the expropriated land will be paid immediately in cash. The remainder will be paid in bonds redeemable over eight years and bearing 10 percent interest. The rate of compensation will b, determined by a Special Committee and equivalent to two and one-half times the annual paddy yield of the land. At the Midway Conference last June, President Thieu told President Nixon of his determined pursuit of "a vigorous land redistribution prosram that would give the land to those who work it." President Nixon then expressed special interest in the program and offered U.S. cooperation to help achieve it. On June 27, 1969 a land reform agreement providing IOU .S. million assistance was signed in Saigon. An additional 30 U.S. million in fiscal 1970 might also be forthcoming. This will be needed since the cost of program as finally envisioned has proved to be higher. The Government of the Republic of Viet-Nam has allotted 1.2 VN billion (10 U.S. million) as early as July 1969 to support the new program. Foreign aid will cover only part of the program, and the bulk of the program will be supported by the RVN budget. The implementation of the program will go into full swing in the very first months of the new law. Computers will help print out titles for about a million hectares of land to be distributed to an expected 800,000 farmers. President Thieu has promised that 200,000 hectares of the "Land-to-the-Tiller Program" will be distributed in 1970, and that the remaining of the one million hectares would be distributed before the end of 1973. The farmers who receive land under the new law will be exempted from all kinds of tax relating to the transfer of land. In addition, they will also be exempted from any land tax in the first year of ownership. With the new land reform program, the land tenure problems in South Viet-Nam will be solved. The economic advantages are considerable. Farmers will be extended help in seeds, fertilizers and' dranght animals. And since they will receive the total income themselves, there will be a high incentive to increase production. The farmland will not be over-parcelized, since the 3-hectare family plot in the Delta (1 hectare in Central Viet-Nam) will constitute opti. mum size for the small Honda motors that characterize the present stage pf mechanization of agriculture in South Viet-N am.

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Landowners who obtain government bonds will be encouraged to invest their compensation money in fledgling industries. This should 'be an important boost in developing industriali.ation.

In the past, the government has been slow to divest itself of expropriated and former French lands. Learning from this experience, this time the government decides to press for quick and effective action. We are conscious that political and/or agministrative delays could effectively nuJlify the whole program. From the President down to the personnel of the Land Reform and Agriculture Ministry, all are determined to carry out the program in the shortest possible time.

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Promulgation of Land-to-the-Tiller Policy March 26,1970


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(Above) President Nguyen Van Thieu addressing audience at promulgation ceremony of Land-to-the-Tiller Policy, held on March 26, 1970_ (Left) President Nguyen Van Thieu holding aloft a copy of the Land-to-the-Tiller Policy, the definitive land reform bill just signed into law in the Republic of Viet-Nam. (Next page) Representatives of farmers from 44 provinces showing autographed copies of Law No. 003/70 just handed them by the President of the Republic of Viet-Nam.


LAND·TO·THE·TILLER POLICY IN THE REPUBLIC OF VIET·NAM

Fol/owing is 1111 unofficial translation of the complete text of LIIW No. 003/70 oj March 26, 1970 governing the Land-to-the-Tiller Policy in the Republic oj Vi~tWam. .

Chapter I

OBJECTIVES-MEASURES TO BE APPLIED Article 1 Land-to-the-Tiller Policy set forth by this law is aimed at: -Providing ownership to farmers by making those people actually cultivating landowners and allowing them to receive all of the benefits from their labor. -Equal opportunity for advancement among all farmers. Article 2 In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, the following measures shaIl be applied: 1. Expropriate with fair compensation lands which are not directly cultivated by landowners for distribution free of charge to farmers. 2. Eliminate tenancy, and land speculation by middlemen. 3. Distribution of communal riceland.

Chapter II SCOPE OF APPLICATION . Article 3 This law applies to riceland and. secondary cropland belonging to private.persons or legal entities, under public or private jurisdiction. Article 4 Lands recorded in the Land Register under the name of one owner will be considered as a single private property unit. Any transfer not registered prior to the promulgatiol\ date of Ihis law is null and void. Lands registered separately under the names of a man and his wife shall be considered as a single private property unit, except in case of marriage ullderthe separate property ~ystem. Article 5 This law c\oes not apply tOlne following categories of land: 1. Land presently directly cultivated by landowners or their spouses 13


or parents or children or legal heirs not exceeding fifteen hectares. L~nd足 owners directly cultivating their land have the right to hire laborers to farm\

2. Ancestral worship land (Huong Hoa, Hau Dien, and Ky Dien) and cemetery land not exceeding five hectares for each family. 3, Land presently owned by religious organizations. 4. Industrial. cropland and orchard land (excluding crops having a life of less than one year). 5. Industrial building sites. 6. Salt fields, lakes and ponds, and pasture land on livestock farms. 7. Land designated on maps for urban planning, residential areas, and gravesites. 8. Land in experimental centers and agricultural demonstration projects. . 9. Land specifically reserved in Montagnard huon" :nd hamlets in accordance with Decree-Laws 033/67 and 034/67 dated August 29, 1961. 10. Land for public interest. 11. Land that has never been planted in rice and is cleared after promulgation of this law. Article 6 Categories of lands 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 avoiding application of this law sliall be considered null and void.

Chapter III LANDLORD COMPENSATION Article 7 Landlords having land expropriated will be compensated quickly and fairly. The rate of compensation will be determined by a Special Committee. This Committee shall be established by a Decree. Article 8 The rate of compensation shall be equivalent to two and one-half times the annual paddy yield of the land. Annual yield means the average yield during the past five years. Article 9 Landlords shall be compensated according to the following standards: -20 percent of the value of the expropriated hind shall be paid immediately in cash. -The remainder shall be paid in bonds guaranteed by the Government over eight years and bearing 10 percent interest. In case land ownership and usufruct right belong to two different persons, the compensation to each should be determined by the Special Committee mentioned above. 14


Article 10, Bonds may be pledged, transferred, used as payment of hypothecs and payment of land tax, or to buy shares in private or national enter路 prises. Article 11 Rights of privileged creditors, pledgers, hypothecators or heirs will become the creditors' right with respect to the amount of compensation to landlords based on the legal status of the land in the Land Register.

Chapter IV BENEFICIARIES Article 12 Land for distribution will be distributed free of charge to each farm family with a maximum area of: -Three hectares in southern Viet-Nanl -One hectare in O:ntral Viet-Nam. A farm family is comprised of parents, spouses and children living together in a house and listed on the family card. Article 13 Land for distribution shall be distributed in the following order of priority: 1. Present tiller: Present tillers are those people cultivating land belonging to another person, 2. Parents, spouse or children of war dead who will directly cultivate the land, if they have submitted an application. 3. Soldiers, civil servants and cadre when discharged or retired who will directly cultivate the land, if they have submitted an application. 4. Soldiers, civil servants and cadre who had to abandon cultivation because of the war, if they have submitted an application in order for their families to directly cultivate the land. 5. Farm laborers who will directly cultivate the land, if they have submitted an application. In any case, land distributed added to the land alreadY owned cannot exceed the area fixed in Article 12. Article 14 Persons recelVlng land are exempted from registration tax, stamp tax, land administrative fees and all other fees relating to thl' transfer pf land, and shall be exempted from any tax related to the distributed land in the first year. Article 15 Persons receiving distributed land must directly cultivate the land themselves. For a period of fifteen years starting from the date he becomes owner, the person receiving land distributed under this law cannot transfer 15


ownership, or agree to establish real right on the land received except in case of prior official authorization. A person (or his spouse) who has sold distributed land will 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 percent of the purchase price will not be subject to Article 15, paragraph 2 of this Law.

Chapter V PUNITIVE MEASURES

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Article 17 Any person acting to prevent implementation of this law will be sentenced from six months to three years imprisonment or fined from VN$ 20,000 to VN$ 200,000 or both. Article 18 Any landlord as determined in Article 5, paragraph 1 who refuses to directly cultivate his land shall have his entire property expropriated without compensation. Article 19 Any farmer violating Article 15 by not directly cultivating the land will be expropriated without compensation. The land shall be redistributed to other farmers under the provisions of this law. Article 20 Any. lawsuit that occurs in the implementation of this law will be under the jurisdiction of the Land Court, composed of professional judges. , Any violation of provisions regarding penal law will be under jurisdiction of the Civil Court.

Chapter VI COMMON PROVISIONS Article 21 Regulations for implementation of this hiw shall be fixed by Decree. Article 22 AnY' provisions contrary to this law are cancelled. This law will be promulgated according to emergency procedures and published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Viet-Nam.

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VET-NAM BULLE-TN

U. S.

A weekly publication of the Embassy of Viet-Nam 2251 "il" Street, Wli13hington D.C. 20008 Telephone: 234-4860

BULK

Viet-Nam Info Series 27 LAND REFORM IN VIET-NAM (3-70)

POSTAGE

PAID Washington, DC Permit No.41866 RATE


Land Reform Laws of South Vietnam, 23 april 1970, folder 10, box 06, John Donnell Collection, the Vi