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Impacts of relations among ethnic minorities on current stability and development of northern mountainous provinces of Viet Nam
27/8/2015 15:32' Send Print
Basically, ethnic relations in the northern mountainous provinces of Viet Nam have made positive impacts on socio-economic, culture development, and environmental protection. Photo: Viet Manh

Since the renovation started, the Party and State have attached importance to build mechanisms and policies to support ethnic minorities to stabilize their lives, bringing about remarkable economic, cultural, social developments in ethnic minority regions. However, due to harsh natural conditions, low educational level of ethnic minorities, and low efficiency of the implementation of the Party and State’s lines and policies, the life of ethnic minorities in many areas remains extremely difficult. Therefore, at present, customary laws of several ethnic minorities have still been practiced with increasingly complicated developments, causing multi-dimensional impacts on the stability and socio-economic development in the region.

Positive impacts

Over the past time, ethnic relations in the northern mountainous provinces have made positive impacts on socio-economic, cultural development and environmental protection. Ethnic minority peoples in these provinces have raised awareness about the socio-economic and cultural values of natural resources, especially land. Free migration in border areas and transborder or cross-border migration have basically come under control. Population resettlement has been done in a more reasonable manner, helping ease the pressure on population change, remove psychological complex, creating opportunities for people to gain access to credit to expand production and social services. In particular, trading relations under the market mechanism and exchanges among communities of the same ethnicity at home and abroad have brought about gradual changes in subsistence production, creating demands for renewing plant and animal production and application of scientific and technological advances, and stimulating development of services in mountainous regions. More jobs have been generated for people in the border areas or trans/cross-border areas, reducing redundant labor during preharvest time, and increasing people’s income. Despite problems arising from impacts of the relationship among some communities of the same ethnicity or different ethnicity in some localities, the national unity bloc has been maintained in almost all locations in the northern mountainous provinces, contributing to socio-economic and cultural development in the region.

Basically, ethnic relations in border areas of northern mountainous provinces of Viet Nam have followed traditional patterns, ensuring solidarity and unity within ethnic groups, especially those in the same residential areas, maintaining linkage and friendship among ethnicities inside and outside the country. This is an important and cross-cutting factor for social and political stability, creating favorable conditions for socio-economic development, environmental protection, improvement of people's lives, security and national defense, especially in border areas (more often in multi-ethnic, multi-religious areas), and strengthening the role of northern mountainous provinces as “protective wattle” for national security.

Ethnic relations in the border region of northern mountainous provinces have further strengthened and consolidated the long-standing traditions of mutual assistance and support in life, agricultural production, sale of products, in cases of food shortage, provision of human resource and materials to families in need. Traditional culture, customary laws and habits have been practiced and preserved to ensure social order and protect common assets of the communities and family members. People are united to firmly maintain all people’s security and national defense posture, contributing an important part to safeguard national integrity.

Negative impacts

Local disunity, suspicion, jealousy, discrimination, alienation and even conflicts within ethnic people, among ethnic groups and among ethnic minority and majority groups have been evidenced in some localities. This situation has caused negatively impacts on ethnic relations in Viet Nam, destabilizing social and political situation, affecting the implementation of socio-economic development programs and projects, causing mistrust in the Party and the State’s policies among a number of ethnic minorities. If internal disagreements, contradictions and conflicts in ethnic relations are not resolved, they will lead to intention of autonomy, secession and opportunities for hostile forces in and outside the country to instigate and deepen contradictions in the great national unity bloc, weakening the "protective wattle" of the country, and giving rise to nationalism, and localism.

In recent years, many transnational ethnic relations relating to historical origin, awareness on national border and ethnic territory, cross-border ethnic, kinship, religious and belief relations of a part of ethnic minority Protestants, and the issue of "Hmong kingdom" are all connected to one or more ethnic relations. Through specific ethnic relationships, the hostile forces have taken advantage of ethnic minorities’ gullibility and simplicity to distort the Party and State’s ethnic policies, causing socio-political instability and undermining territorial integrity of Viet Nam.

Contradictions and conflicts over land ownership between the indigenous people and migrants of the Kinh people and other ethnic minorities have given rise to misunderstanding of the State and local authorities’ policies. Besides, rich and poor stratification within ethnic groups and among ethnic groups has become more obvious. Other problems include illiteracy, school drop-out, relapse of illiteracy among ethnic minority children, and unbalance number of local cadres from different ethnic groups in the same region.

Other illegal practices based on relations of the same ethnicity, transboder and cross-border kinship such as voluntary or forced marriages (without marriage registration with local authorities), woman and girl kidnap and traffic, free migration and illegal residence, transport and trade of prohibited commodities, dissemination of prohibited material and harmful cultural products, and illegal religious proliferation have exerted negative impacts on law and order, social safety, security and national defense.

In addition, some traditional elements in ethnic relations in economic, social and cultural fields, on the one hand are driving force for preserving community cohesion, contributing to the conservation and promotion ethnic cultural identity; on the other hand, factors that maintain backward habits and psychology, slowing down progress and reducing the effectiveness of socio-economic development policies, programs and projects in many localities. Some forces have taken advantage of customs and habits of ethnic minorities to distort and incite anti-Party and anti-State feeling.

Issues to be settled

Many complicated issues have arisen in ethnic relations in the mountainous provinces of northern Viet Nam in recent years. Though some of the problems are not new, they have remained while changes to ethnic situation and adjustments of policies relating to ethnic minority groups and mountainous regions have been slow. They include, for example, in the new context, the issue of real estate transactions market and ownership of subjects, particularly those related to purchase, sale, transfer, legalizing public land into private land, illegal encroachment and occupation of land, and the issue of cohesion and internal division in some ethnic groups due to changing of traditional beliefs to other religions. Some people demand separation of ethnic groups. Others put ethnic and kinship relations above national territorial sovereignty. Other new and sensitive issues are labor relations and employment, especially in hiring labor in one ethnic group or from other ethnic groups, goods exchange and trade, relations in exploitation and use of natural resources, especially forest land and water source (river) which is not only regional issue but also a trans/cross-border problem, mixed race marriages in the country and cross countries; establishment of scientific, religious, cultural, economic and political centers of trans/cross-border ethnic groups.

Besides, relationships among the same and different ethnic communities will be growingly influenced by the market economy, international integration and globalization in different extends. Thus, ethnic relations in the northern mountainous border provinces will be subject to the influence of cultural, social, psychological, and awareness elements. It is both opportunity and challenge for the consolidation, development and management of ethnic relations while Viet Nam is continuing the renovation process and international integration. Therefore, in order to sustainably manage and develop ethnic groups in the northern mountainous provinces, it is necessary to complete and implement resolutely the following solutions:

First, solutions pertaining to viewpoints and awareness

First, fully grasp the viewpoint of building ethnic relations of equality, unity, respect for and mutual assistance among ethnic groups in a multi-ethnic country like Viet Nam, considering it a strategic, fundamental and long-term and urgent issue affecting stability and sustainable development of the country.

Second, ethnic policies, and development of solidarity, equality, respect for and mutual assistance among ethnic groups should be placed in the comprehensive strategy for sustainable development of ethnic groups, between socio-economic development with environment protection, harmony, and social consensus on all fields.

Third, the settlement of ethnic problems, equality, unity, respect for and mutual assistance in Viet Nam should be placed in context of globalization impacts, increased transnational ethnic, and kinship relations. Maximize internal resources in combination with mobilization and, effective use of external resources.

Second, solutions relating to stable and sustainable development of ethnic minorities in northern mountainous regions.

First, determine and develop master plan on strategy and policy for development of the Northwestern region from now until 2020 and vision toward 2030. Define objectives and requirements of development strategies on the basis of review and evaluation of socio-economic, cultural, environmental policies of provinces. Prepare plans and identify spearhead and key branches of the region, and potential and strength for - sustainable socio-economic development of localities and ethnic groups.

Second, focus on developing branches and fields which are carrying out economic restructuring. Identify key, spearhead, breakthrough sectors with immediate and long-term impacts on socio-economic growth and development of the region in its economic relations with neighboring countries. Implement policies on planning socio-economic development in the region, and renovate economic and investment structure to accelerate growth.

Third, implement policies on land and forest development in the area, pay attention to policies on hunger eradication and poverty reduction for comprehensive and sustainable development. The Central and local authorities must early complete land-use and residential plans, focusing on resettlement, plans on agricultural land, forest land, and industrial land, and accelerate forest land allocation to communities and households. Plan and rearrange population areas, and support building infrastructure, such as transport, irrigation and public utilities. Renovate the work of hunger eradication and poverty reduction, mobilize resources from different sources to assist poor people, and form some convincing models.

Fourth, effectively control free migration and resettlement of people, especially ethnic minorities. Local authorities must closely monitor migrants’ movement, assist them to access and benefit from the State’s policies and mechanisms. It is necessary to acquire correct understanding and take correct action, and set great store by cultural tradition of resettling ethnic groups, implement policies on compensation, care for livelihood of affected households, facilitate changes in farming practices and raise duration and assistance for 2-3 years for resettling households.

Fifth, build capacity of cadres, implement policies in support of staff and rational use of staff, implement policies on religion, and step up prevention of social evils. Attach importance to training and retraining to turn out professionally qualified and competent cadres, especially those of ethnic minorities at grassroots level. Issue policies to attract and give incentive to highly qualified staff from the plain to work in northern mountainous provinces. Step up social orientation, facilitate religious conversion in line with the nature of the socialist regime. Disseminate and coordinate closely with branches and levels in prevention of social evils, and contribute to ensuring stability and development in the region and the whole country.

This article was published on Communist Review No 872 (June 2015)

Nguyen Dang Thong, PhDPolitical Academy of Region I