The Dung Quat Economic Zone Authority (DEZA) project, located in Quang Ngai province, was established to set up a large special economic and industrial zone, including Vietnam’s first oil refinery [1;2]. It was approved by the Prime Minister in 1996 and constructed within two project phases, between 1997 and 2014 .
The DEZA project, covering a total area of 45,332ha (see project details), required the resettlement of more than 1,500 households from nine villages. During the first project phase (1997-2005), 1,111 families needed to be resettled to new areas. Compensation was quite low (26,000VND/m2), however, resettlement caused just a few complaints. During the second phase (2006 – 2014), another 8,297 families were affected, of which 701 needed to be relocated to new locations. While compensation payments were higher than during the first construction phase, people’s protests increased drastically and over 520 complaint letters were sent during 2010-2012. Reasons for this increase in complaints were reported to be partly related to differences in people’s perception of the project, as well as due to problems along to the resettlement process .
During the first phase, the compensations received, although being comparatively low, were higher than their earnings from agriculture. Further, people reportedly also shared a common view on the needs for this project and consequently, they largely accepted to be resettled. However, during the second construction phase, the resettled groups received higher compensations as the first groups, due to a strong rise in land prices. These differences caused villagers, relocated during the first phase, to change their mind. On July 14, 2010 several hundred households who had previously accepted to leave the land, then returned to the oil refinery factory, protesting for higher compensations. They blocked the entrance of the factory, causing a stop of its activities . Other reasons for the increase in protests were that during the second construction phase, compensations were not always paid in time, and sometimes, relocation areas were not immediately available for the displaced people. Some resettlement areas even overlapped with land of indigenous people, causing conflicts between the displaced and the indigenous. Many resettlement areas did not meet the promised “better living standards” and lacked basic needs supply such as access to clean water .
Conflict over the DEZA project emerged hence largely during the post-resettlement process and due to a perceived injustice over compensation payments that followed the logic of the market value of land, rather than an understanding of equity among the affected land users.