Viet Nam News
ĐẮK NÔNG – Hundreds of ethnic minority households have been living without ID cards in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Nông for the last 20 years, missing out on countless basic legal, social and economic rights and opportunities.
They have been called “identityless”. They cannot access basic services or enjoy the fundamental rights of citizens. Owning property, registering vehicles and even applying for birth certificates for their children are out of the question – just because they do not have ID cards.
Living in the shadows
Nearly 20 years ago, a group of ethnic minorities from the north settled in a forest in Quảng Phú Commune, Krông Nô District. They set up tents and cleared forest land for cultivation to survive.
Lục Văn Hiệp, a person from the group, told Nông thôn ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that the area was deserted and isolated. They created a self-sufficient lifestyle, cultivating corn and cassava.
Favourable weather condition and fertile soil brought them a good source of food. More people came, encroaching on the forest land to make room for crops.
People without ID documents are forced to live in the shadows in a myriad of ways. After being discovered by local authorities, they hid out for a while and then returned, he recalled.
Over the years, the group of people has expanded to 350 households.
In 2016, the provincial authority decided to establish Phú Vinh Village, where the 350 households were located, under the management of Quảng Phú Commune. Hiệp was elected the head of the village.
Initial figures from local authority showed that up to 90 per cent of households were living in poverty. Apart from cultivating corn and cassava, residents had no other way of improving their economic standing.
Poor crops, shortages of electricity and a lack of information have pushed these households into poverty.
Local authorities said they could not estimate the average income of these households. Bumper crops could bring them tens of millions of đồng in a good year, which meant they were still hungry between harvests.
A motorbike worth VNĐ20 million (US$860) was the only valuable property in the village.
Despite the dire economic situation, none of the households were eligible for the State’s financial support as they were unable to prove their existence.
Apart from poverty, local residents in Phú Vinh Village face additional difficulties because they live without official identification.
Phàng A Hồng, a villager, just bought a new motorbike. Because he had no official ID, Hồng had to ask another person with an ID to register his vehicle. He could not get a driving licence, so he only drove the vehicle within the village to avoid being caught by traffic police.
Giàng A Thế, a young man who managed to finish high school in the village, could not follow his dream of higher education as he had no ID card. Thế stayed at home working on the corn fields to earn money like his father.
Children are the most affected. Parents are unable to apply for mandatory documents such as marriage certificates, meaning their children have no birth certificates and cannot go to school.
Giàng A Ninh, the mother of two kids, said she tried to get birth certificates for her children but failed because she could not show a marriage certificate.
“They’re almost at the age of going to school,” Ninh said. “I’m so worried.”
A matter of identity cards
Vũ Hoàng Phú, chairman of the commune’s People’s Committee, said the committee has been working on the issue but it was a difficult task.
Most residents had no personal papers or lost them during the move to the village. In addition, they were living on forest land, which is illegal.
The committee plans to ask for a special mechanism to issue permanent residence certificates and ID cards to local residents to ensure their civil benefits.
It would allocate land for production and accommodation to help residents access social welfare services, he said.
Chairman of Krông Nô District’s People’s Committee Ngô Xuân Đông said the committee would build kindergartens and connect the district to the power network to improve the lives of residents.
So far, as many as 50 households have been supplied with power. The rest would be connected to the electricity network soon, he said. — VNS