Vietnam’s minorities lose right to farm forests

One afternoon at the end of 2017, officials in Dakrong district in Central Vietnam’s Quang Tri province visited Ho Thi Nieng’s house. They claimed she and her husband had “burned the protected forest to do farming.”

“We had been cultivating that land for a long time and there had never been a problem,” 26-year-old Nieng, who belongs to the Van Kieu ethnic minority in Ta Leng village, said as she recalled her panic at the accusation.

The following year, in 2018, the young mother was sentenced to nine months in jail for burning the forest to farm it. Nieng’s husband, Ho Van Hai, 32, was also charged with the same crime, but received a suspended sentence – he was only “helping his wife” and had two young children.

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Nguyen Dac Thanh