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Norms and Practices in Contemporary Rural Vietnam

Social Interaction between Authorities and People

Norms and Practices in Contemporary Rural VietnamDirigé par Christian Culas et Nguyen Van Suu
IRASEC, Bangkok
octobre 2010, 142 p.
ISBN : 978-616-90282-7-7
English Language English text

Since the 1980s, while trying to maintain political stability and territorial integrity, the Vietnamese state has strongly moved towards the transformation of a centrally-planned economy to a more market-oriented model, in which private, foreign and joint-venture businesses are increasingly becoming the key pillars of the national economy. Another key aspect of the Đổi Mới’s agenda was a fundamental shift in the party-state’s foreign relations policy toward a normalization of Vietnam’s diplomatic and trading relations with China, the United States, and other countries since the early 1990s. Over twenty years after the Đổi Mới renewal renovation, Vietnam has been praised by various domestic and international institutions for its “impressive” achievements in socio-economic development and poverty reduction and for its gradual liberalization and market diversification, coupled with its commitment to equality. Consequently, this has changed the relationship between the party-state and society in a number of fields, including the control of agricultural land and other forms of natural resources.

Such transition marks a great change in our scholarly understanding of Vietnam. It has opened the door for intellectual exchange between academics and has resulted in a great amount of research and new knowledge/publications in different languages about various domains regarding Vietnamese society, including the relationships between the state and society at different levels and in various sectors or geographic areas. Among them, studies like those of Kerkvliet, Fforde and others, have developed the “everyday politics approach”, which examines social interactions on an everyday action basis. This approach "from below" has given a fresh impetus to the study of social relations in Vietnam.

However, our observations regarding academic research show that besides a number of rich ethnographic studies, there are many analyses from different social science disciplines that give a generalized view of trends of development and change in Vietnamese society over the past decades with limited field data. This means that research projects based on first-hand data from longer periods of fieldwork and qualitative investigations are still inadequate. As a result, we are suggesting that more field-based research be carried out in order to enhance and promote our understanding of Vietnam, especially its processes of socio-political changes.

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Localisation maps

Social Interaction between Authorities and People in Contemporary Rural Vietnam : Evidence from Three Case Studies (Christian CULAS & NGUYEN Van Suu)


A failed "success story" for Tourist Development Projects in Tam Dao : Gaps between Laws and their Application (Christian CULAS)


I - Temples, Farmers and Tourist projects : are these the key ingredients in the making of a success story ?

1 - Den Thong village and Tay Thien Temples
2 - Agriculture and tourism : income security and opportunities
3 - Why tourism services have not yet become the main activities of Den Thong villagers ?

II - A brief history of local projects in Den Thong village

1 - Project 1 : Building a parking lot in the heart of the rice fields (2005-2006)
2 - Project 2 Phase 1 : Extension of the tourist area to 51 ha, resulting in the village centre being consumed (2007-2009)
3 - Project 2 Phase 2 : Tourist complex zone of 163 ha over four villages (2009-2011)
4 - Project 3 : Tay Thien Cableway and Tourist complex area for 170 ha on four villages (2009-2013)

III - Sources of tension and conflicts between local administration and villagers

1 - How land was "officially" reclaimed three months before the official decision of the province
2 - One law, two practical applications
3 - With official decisions often being contradictory, how can one find a suitable solution ?

IV - What are the possibilities to file a complaint or to have one’s rights recognized ?

1 - Requests of information and complaint procedures
2 - Forms of resistance to the tourism development projects

V - Key elements in understanding the current tensions between villagers and local authorities

1 - Questions about the future of the village : are they taken into account in projects
2 - Who are considered “project stakeholders” and by whom ?
3 - Assumptions on the basis of the relationship between authorities and the people

VI - What are the possibilities of governance within a complex legal framework ?

1 - A hierarchy of norms at the foundation of law
2 - Forms of local governance and expressions of civil society



Agricultural Land Claims in the Red River Delta during Decollectivization (NGUYEN Van Suu)


I - State Laws and Regulations about Claims to Land in Contemporary Vietnam

II - The Practices of Villagers’ Claims to Land since the Decollectivization Period : The Case of Red River Delta Villages

III - Consequences : Local Conflicts

IV - Implications : The Importance of Property Rights



Practical Norms and Gaining Legitimacy in Ha Nam Province (NGUYEN Thi Thanh Binh)

I - Profane Power

II - Tolerance and Sentiment in the Building of Legitimacy

III - Rebuilding Trust and Decision : “Enter into the Hearts” of People

IV - Conclusion