The Complex Reality of National Park Development under Authoritarianism: Yok Don and Chu Mom Ray, Vietnam

Ole Bruun*

*Corresponding author

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Vietnam is simultaneously an aspiring environmental state and an authoritarian one. As such, it has clearly articulated policies for biodiversity protection, including measures to secure the livelihoods of communities adjacent to national parks. However, the realities on the ground often confound state environmental discourse. The national parks in the highlands were created through new forms of territorial domination after the war, while continued in-migration and development have made these parks contested spaces that are fraught with pervasive inequities and unsettled ethnic relations. Among the consequences of this weak legitimacy are illegal logging and poaching; indecisive management and protection; and rapidly declining biodiversity, with severe impacts on local livelihoods. Based on a study of two parks in southern Vietnam, this article explores the real-life complexities of national park development under authoritarianism, including the persistent gap between state environmental rhetoric and locally negotiated illegalities. It finds that the key characteristics of authoritarian environmentalism drive a bifurcation of environmental management regimes: a formal, top-down domain of policy- and law-making, serving multiple purposes of legitimation, and a contingent domain of provincial development priorities and locally negotiated use rights. Despite the apparent disorder, both are equally significant to the party-state’s resilience.

TidsskriftSociology of Development
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)151-171
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - 1 jun. 2023

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The research was conducted under an interdisciplinary program on the emergence of the environmental state under authoritarianism financed by the Independent Research Council Denmark, project 9038-00138B.


  • authoritarian environmentalism
  • ethnic minorities
  • national parks
  • Vietnam

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