Vietnam’s ‘tiger’ economy losing its roar – Christian Science Monitor

VINH-O COMMUNE, QUANG TRI PROVINCE, VIETNAM – The Ben Hai river running through this small mountain village in central Vietnam marks the 17th parallel — what was the dividing line between North and South Vietnam prior to the exit of US troops and the communist victory in 1975. It is a historic but neglected part of Vietnam – a world apart from the bustling capital Hanoi, with cell phone coverage disappearing on the snaking road up to the village, as the early morning drizzle falls over the steep, foliage-laden slopes on either side. Most of the people living along the rural river area are Van Kieu, one of 54 officially-recognized ethnic groups in Vietnam, a country where rising income levels for urban Vietnamese have not been matched by improved living standards in some isolated rural areas where minorities live. Despite Vietnam’s “tiger” economy years, “upland farmers [including and in particular the minority ethnic groups of the Central Highlands] have been left behind,” says Roger Montgomery of the London School of Economics.

Land activists face prison in Vietnam – Asia Sentinel

HO CHI MINH CITY —  Late on a Tuesday evening, sitting four floors up in a Ho Chi Minh City cafe overlooking the city’s landmark opera house, a worried man who used the pseudonym Long had the look of someone who thought he was being watched. “I drove around the city for 45 minutes before heading here,” he said, hunched over and leaning forward on his seat in a restaurant that was almost empty. Looking around uneasily, he confided, “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being followed.” At the heart of Long’s problems, and those of his fellow members of a Mennonite Church offshoot, are what they deem as unfair land seizures that see the government  turn over property over to companies as land for factories and apartments. Landowners frequently complain about unfair compensation and criticize the laws on land use, which they say are often abused by corrupt local officials.