PM Land Directive has been seen by believers of religions in Vietnam as a frank refusal to the proposal of the Vietnamese bishops in resolving the land disputes that had led to social unrests in the past years.

On Sept 25, 2008, the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement calling for a thorough land law reform. “The land and property laws are still outdated and inconsistent, they ought to be revised,” the bishops wrote. Furthermore, “this revision needs to take the right to own private property into consideration as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others,’ and ‘No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.’ (article 17)”

The call of Vietnamese bishops, who spoke out for the interests of the country, and for legitimate rights of Catholics and other denominations’ believers, have been so welcomed among leaders and faithful of religions in Vietnam. They have hoped that the government would listen to bishops as their proposal pointed out how this social quagmire could be dealt with, in a way that would make everyone a winner.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister, however, has just released his new directive directing his subordinates to adhere to Resolution No 13/2003/QH11 known as the final blow to all the hopes and dreams of people who would like to see their land returned to them.

According to the newly controversial directive, land of religions that had been confiscated "before the July 1, 1991 must be dealt by the Resolution 23/2003/QH11." The later, issued by the congress on Nov. 26, 2003, stated that all land and properties seized by the state before July 1, 1991 in order to create the socialist regime in Vietnam would not be returned to its owners.

In brief, the new directive has stated that there would be no land law reform. Vietnam government still insists on State ownership of land which frankly denies the right to own private property as suggested by Vietnamese Bishops.

Commenting on the Resolution 23/2003/QH11, Fr. John Nghi, director of VietCatholic News based in California said “It has been acting as the free pass for the cadres to confiscate people's property and later re-sell it for personal gains. Unfortunately, all 2250 properties of the Church in Vietnam had been seized by the government before July 1, 1991.”

“Many buildings that once belonged to the Church have been administered by the State on the grounds that they were needed for social purposes. Even when their purposes are no longer met, the buildings are seldom returned to their owners. Recently, it is reported that they have been used as financial resources for government officials. Needless to say, activities held in these premises often disrupt religious services in the nearby churches,” he continued.

"With this directive, Vietnam government has undoubtedly extinguished all hopes and dreams of the Catholic Church as well as many other religions and ordinary citizens in their quest for their land to be returned through peaceful dialogue with the government and/or legal proceedings. Catholics and faithful of other religions now face uphill battles to regain their properties,” he warned.

The new directive is a typical example for the tendency of Vietnam government to forcefully depress rather than satisfy legitimate aspirations of its citizens.

In a security conference on December, Vietnam PM warned senior police that 2009 would be a difficult year and said preventing demonstrations would be one of the force's core roles. He asked them to be vigilant against "'peaceful evolution' plots by hostile forces", the government's Web site quoted Dung as saying at a national public security meeting held on Dec. 22.

"The police force has to perform its core roles of fighting against and preventing crime, being pro-active in having a thorough grasp of the situation, detecting the seeds of crime early for prompt solutions, preventing demonstrations and terrorism, and providing safeguards for important events during the year," Dung said.