Dong Tam: People's Lives Are Still Shattered After Two Years

The Vietnamese authorities still owe Le Dinh Kinh’s family a few explanations and answers.

Dong Tam: People's Lives Are Still Shattered After Two Years
Le Dinh Kinh and others involved in Dong Tam. Graphics: Luat Khoa Magazine.

January 9, 2020, will be remembered as one of the most horrific events in Vietnam’s contemporary history. At dawn, more than 3,000 police officers were deployed around Dong Tam Commune. They fired shots at a residence in Hoanh Village, Dong Tam Commune, My Duc District, Hanoi. The owner of that house, Le Dinh Kinh, was killed and three police officers also died in the skirmish. Twenty-nine villagers were arrested and convicted in a trial a year later, with two of them receiving the death sentence.

Two years after this atrocious attack in Hoanh village, the government still needs to address several issues of concern to Le Dinh Kinh’s family.

The authorities have yet to release Le Dinh Kinh’s death certificate.

Le Dinh Kinh has not been officially recorded as “dead” in the government system. Du Thi Thanh, Le Dinh Kinh’s wife, informed us that the police officers at Dong Tam Ward only agreed to provide the death certificate on one condition: that they must state that Le Dinh Kinh died at Senh field (which was the disputed land between the villagers of Dong Tam and the government), and not at his residence.

“My husband died in his own home,” Thanh insisted. She was there with Le Dinh Kinh on that horrid morning. “I do not consent to put down incorrect information about my husband’s death, which is why they have not issued his death certificate until now.”

The Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam - Vietcombank - continues to block access to 528.5 million dong (US$23,225) that the public donated for Le Dinh Kinh’s funeral expenses.

Du Thi Thanh told Luat Khoa Magazine that the family still has not received any funds from a donation drive that started almost two years ago.

Seven hundred people sent donations for Le Dinh Kinh to activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s bank accounts. Within one week, Vietcombank blocked Nguyen Thuy Hanh from accessing her account. They also refused to let her withdraw the money so that she could give it to Le Dinh Kinh’s family.

In an interview with The Law Newspaper of Ho Chi Minh City, Lieutenant General Luong Tam Quang, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security, stated that Vietnam suspected that the money may have come from a terrorist group, hence, the need to restrict access. The trial against the 29 villagers of Dong Tam concluded in 2021 with no allegations regarding terrorism, but the funds have yet to be received by Le Dinh Kinh’s family.

The Hanoi Police Department confiscated 15 million dong from Le Dinh Chuc’s family and has not returned it.

Le Dinh Chuc is one of the two sons of Le Dinh Kinh. Hoang Thi Hoa, Le Dinh Chuc’s wife, reported that after the attack of January 9, 2020, police officers confiscated some of her family’s personal belongings from her home. These included a safe with identification papers, insurance policies, and a piggy bank that her two daughters used to keep their savings. Also taken was 15 million dong, which was going to be used to cover her hospital bills for the safe delivery of her third child; the attack at Dong Tam happened 15 days before Hoa’s expected delivery date.

As her delivery date was approaching, Hoa went to the ward’s police station to ask them to return her family’s belongings. However, the police only returned the identification papers, the insurance policies, and an empty safe.

“They told me that I should try to find a different source of money for my delivery. They assured me that the money was in good hands and that nobody would use it. They told me that they would return it to me after the investigation concluded,” Hoa recalled. The trial ended almost one year ago and the police have yet to return her money.

Le Dinh Cong’s family and Le Dinh Chuc’s older brother are facing a similar situation. During the Dong Tam case investigation, police also confiscated jewelry, the wedding bands, cosmetics, and a few personal belongings of Cong’s family.  

“Our family does not have anything anymore. We lost everything that morning,” Tran Thi Huong, Le Dinh Cong’s wife, said.

This article was written in Vietnamese by May and was previously published in Luat Khoa Magazine on January 8, 2022. The English translation was done by Karie Nguyen.

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