Three Years After Dong Tam, What Do We Remember?

Three Years After Dong Tam, What Do We Remember?
Graphic: Luat Khoa Magazine.

On January 9, 2020, the Vietnamese government deployed 3,000 police officers to Dong Tam commune and, as they alleged, to crush the local terrorists there. Nevertheless, "terrorism" was never proved at the later trial, but Le Dinh Kinh, the 85-year-old commune's leader, was killed that day by the government's bullets. The terror of this attack and its brutal consequences are what many remember about this tragedy.

Le Dinh Kinh was a Communist Party member for more than 50 years, and until his death, his family said he remained loyal to the Party and its leaders. All the memories of his life were dedicated to the Party; his medals and certificates are still left on a wall at his home. This wall is where some bullets struck him on January 9, 2020; it remains a testament to how the Party repaid his loyalty.

The aftermath of the deployment resulted in the deaths of three police officers - alleged by the authorities - and Le Dinh Kinh. The government tried 29 people from the Dong Tam commune in September 2020 for four days and sentenced two of them, Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc (Le Dinh Kinh's two sons), to death.

The tragedy of Dong Tam focuses on the most critical and widely debated issue of Vietnam's society: land rights. This year, Vietnam's National Assembly proposes changing the country's law of lands in 2023. Will the new law prevent tragedies like Dong Tam from happening in the future? Will the new law safeguard the people's land rights, or will it only protect the interests of corporations and the wealthiest groups in Vietnam? Will the loyalty of Party members, like Le Dinh Kinh, be repaid once again with bullets fired by their comrades in land conflicts?

Many questions with no clear answers or resolutions plague the Dong Tam tragedy. We recommend reading a report on this incident published in September 2020. It is a minimal effort to seek transparency in this case.

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