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Southeast Asia, explained

Vietnam land reform: farmer fights land seizure Scarface style

Gun battle stokes crucial debate over state land control
Vietnam land reform 2012 02 16Enlarge
Farmer Dang Roi stands next to his family's rice field at Que Dien, Vietnam. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

When Vietnam's government dispatched a 100-man police squadron to forcibly boot 49-year-old Doan Van Vuon off his fish farm, he and his brothers took the Scarface route.

The farmer cobbled together homemade landmines, laid them along the authorities' path and loaded up his shotguns, Vietnam's Tuoi Tre News reported. The standoff ended with six officials injured and four farmers charged with attempted murder.

That was weeks ago. And while anti-government defiance in Vietnam is typically snuffed out quickly, Vuon's battle is still stoking a larger question: who deserves to own and control Vietnam's farms?

Starting in 1993, Vuon built up his fish farm from scratch. He even "lost a daughter on that land," according to a Voice of America report.

But it was never technically his. The Vietnam government "allocated" it to him and always retained ultimate power over the land's future.

The Vietnam Farmers' Association -- risking the appearance of sympathy towards a guy who shot at cops -- is now politely prodding the government to at least give farmers 50 to 70 years of control over their land, Tuoi Tre reports.

Though most international attention is focused on Vietnam's fast-growing urban centers, this issue is more likely to resound throughout the largely agrarian society.

The communist party's handling of land reform may determine whether we see more farmers like Vuon driven to this desperate end game.

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/vietnam-land-reform