US Embassy in Vietnam Closely Monitors Dong Tam Incident: RFA


Defend the Defenders, February 16, 2020


The US Embassy in Hanoi is closely monitoring the development after the attack of Vietnam’s police in Dong Tam commune on January 9 and gathering information about the incident from different sources, according to the embassy’s reply to RFA.

Accordingly, the embassy is concerned about the deaths from the two sides in the violent clash between Vietnam’s security forces and residents in Hoanh village. It said it is important for the two sides to settle the dispute publicly, peacefully and transparently.

Last week, three American diplomats led by  Michele Roulbet, head of the Political division of the embassy, met with land right activist Trinh Ba Phuong to collect information about the police attack in Hoanh village in which 84-year-old Le Dinh Kinh, the spiritual leader of Dong Tam commune’s residents, was brutally killed while the police said three police officers were also murdered. Phuong has close ties with Dong Tam people and the local residents have trust in the human rights defender.

On February 12, more than one month after the massacre, police came to Mr. Kinh’s house and met with his widow Du Thi Thanh, who was also detained and tortured on January 9. Police officers asked her to allow them to take away all the steel doors, to get a sample of their metal types. She denied their request, saying they were not allowed to take away anything from her house. It is likely police want to wipe out evidence of the attack because there were too many bullet marks left on Mr. Kinh’s house, including windows and doors.

On next day, police officers came to her house again with a summon, demanding her to present herself at the city’s Police Office at 8 am on  February 14 but she told them that she would not go anywhere.

There are some independent reports about the police attack in Dong Tam commune on January 9. The first report was released by a group of activists named The Dong Tam Task Forces which consists of prominent dissident blogger Pham Doan Trang, American citizen William Nguyen, who was detained for one month for participation in the mass protest in Ho Chi Minh on June 10, 2018, and Amnesty International’s campaigner Nguyen Truong Son.

The second report was made by Dr. Hoang Xuan Phu, a professor at the Institute of Mathematics, a member of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology. Using his formidable analytical skills as a renown Professor in Mathematics, based on the evidence he gathered himself at the scenes where the attack happened, photos he took himself, photos and video clips circulated on the Internet, comparing that with the official version, Professor Phu came to the following findings (summary of key points):

1. On January 9, 2020, the Vietnamese government deployed several thousand members of the police attacked Dong Tam village, tortured and killed Mr. Le Dinh Kinh when he was lying on his bed, arrested and took away dozens of villagers.

The regime’s initial announcement on January 9 was “.. During the process of building a wall to protect Mieu Mon airport, in the morning of January 9, a number of opposing subjects, used grenades, petrol bombs, throwing knives… attacked law enforcement authorities, opposed those performing public duties, causing public disorder, as a result, three police officers sacrificed, one opposing subject died, another subject injured…”

According to Prof. Phu, the above announcement was a lie, as the attack happened in Hoanh village, several kilometers in distance from Mieu Mon airport, several hours before the actual construction of a wall in Mieu Mon airport started. Those behind the attack knew very well they had acted illegally, and so had to make up this lie to justify their attack on Dong Tam village. This also reflected their habit of disregarding the law and showing utter contempt towards the people.

2. Before being shot at his heart, 84-year-old Le Dinh Kinh had been brutally tortured. Photos showing his knee was totally smashed by gunshots, his body was cut open from his throat to his lower abdomen, reflect the ringleaders’ desire and determination to take revenge on him and Dong Tam villagers, for daring to protect the land that they had been cultivating on. This brutality was also to intimidate all those who dare to be stubborn enough to fight tyranny and defend their land like Dong Tam villagers.

Mr. Kinh had committed the sin of being… totally innocent. That was why ringleaders could not lock him up then bring him to court, they had to kill him when he was lying on his bed. That was why, as the exemplary Party member could not be expelled from the Party, his comrades had to execute him.

3. The deaths of three police officers during the attack (according to the later official version, they were burned alive by villagers after falling into a “technical” hole), served the purpose of generating public anger and hatred towards Mr.Kinh’s family and Dong Tam villagers, generated support for the illegal attack on Dong Tam commune, and helped quieten down the voices of those who condemned Mr. Kinh’s murder. However, based on Prof. Phu’s detailed analysis, it was impossible for Dong Tam villagers to be able to burn alive these three officers in the context they were in. Also, the officers could not fall down the “technical” hole by themselves. They had been thrown down the hole, and were burned to death, but not by Dong Tam villagers.

4. The murdering of Mr. Kinh and the killings of three police officers were all acts of evil. They all have to be subject to legal criminal proceedings and stern justice.

5. Hanoi police have decided to start legal criminal proceedings against 20 Dong Tam villagers for “the killings of police officers,” however from Prof. Phu’s analysis, these 20 people had nothing to do with the deaths of the three police officers.

Meanwhile, the killing of Mr. Kinh hasn’t been subject to any legal criminal proceedings. Vietnam’s authorities cannot just focus on the crime of killing officers while they were performing public duties, but ignore the crime of killing people in the name of performing public duties.

6. The regime had dealt itself a fatal blow by committing an evil crime in Dong Tam. To get itself out of the hole, it must confess its evil crime, stop immediately its campaign to mount false accusations, to lie, to lock up innocent people, to subject them to forced confession. By doing all these things, it only pours more oil into a burning fire.

7. To stop the long string of evil crimes stemming from the scourge of land robbery in the name of “the land belongs to the people but managed and controlled by the state,” the regime must repeal the rules on “collective ownership of land” in the Constitution.

8. To alleviate the pain and suffering caused by the evil crime it had committed in Dong Tam, the regime should at the very least, say sorry to Mr. Kinh’s family and Dong Tam villagers.