Some Thai Ha Parishioners Cause Public Disorder, Two Detained

The Ha Noi police on Thursday detained two Catholic members of Thai Ha parish who caused public disorder at Chien Thang Sewing Company, 178 Nguyen Luong Bang Street, Dong Da District, Ha Noi.

Mrs. Le Thi Hoi at the investigation agency office

Le Thi Hoi, 61, and Le Quang Kien, 63, both of Dong Da district, were prosecuted for “destroying assets and causing public disorder” and have pleaded guilty.

Dozens of Catholic of Thai Ha parish broke down a 6-meter section of the wall surrounding Chien Thang Company on Aug. 14. This allowed hundreds of people to enter the company’s premises.

They pitched tents, chopped down trees, set a fire, leveled the grass, brought religious statues and pictures with them, held prayers and sang anthems. They also put an altar on top of a water tank.

In the following days, some of the protestors continued to bring crosses, statues and pictures to the compound. Some of the pictures and statues were placed in residential and working areas.

To cope with the situation, the People’s Committee of Dong Da District delivered three circulars to the priest of Thai Ha parish. These asked the parishioners to stop illegal acts, remove tents, pictures, statues and crosses from the site. The agency also called for their cooperation in restoring the public order in the area.

Despite the local administration efforts at reconciliation, the protest became more violent.

Extreme actions by some Thai Ha parishioners arose from a dispute on the right of use of the land where Chien Thang Company is located. The dispute has been dealt with by Ha Noi People’s Committee’s Decision No. 1476 dated June 30 on solving the complaint lodged by Father Trinh Ngoc Hien and some other priests and parishioners of the Thai Ha parish.

In a complaint of Aug. 19, some dignitaries of Thai Ha parish denied all written answers from the administration. They insisted on claiming that they had received no documents as evidence that the land area was handed over to the state. Actually, the land was transferred by Father Vu Ngoc Bich to the State in the 1960s.

In an official letter to relevant agencies Wednesday, the Ha Noi People’s Committee requested an investigation into the public disorder caused by the protesters.

The acts of Thai Ha parishioners violate the law in general and the Criminal Code in particular, said Senior Lieutenant Colonel Vu Cong Long of Dong Da District Police. The agency will investigate the case and force anyone who illegally occupied land to move off the site.

According to Mr. Phan Trung Hoa, a lawyer and a Ph.D., the case is causing profound concern. If it is not solved through dialogue and on the basis of law, it may lead to further conflict. If the protestors do not agree with the decisions of the city of Ha Noi, they can take steps in accordance with procedures for administrative complaints or take legal action as stipulated in articles 17 and 46 of the amended Law on Complaint and Accusation passed by the National Assembly on December 12, 2005.

Some opinions about the case

“A Catholic, I do not concur with actions by some Thai Ha parishioners. Besides obeying the Jesus’ instructions, we must comply with the law. Our actions must not affect the Church’s reputation. It is unacceptable for anyone in the name of God to conduct actions breaking laws and against the benefits of the community where they are living”. (Bui Thi Ngoc, a Catholic at the Tan Hoa Parish, Ward 14, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City)

“The priest’s attitude of non-corporation with the local authorities is not in accord with his role in the parish. It is improper to use holy pictures and statues in a land dispute. We hope Thai Ha parishioners will stop their extreme actions and cooperate with relevant agencies to tackle the problem”. (Tran Duc Hieu, deputy standing chairman of the Religion Solidarity Committee of Can Tho City)

“Thai Ha parishioners should calm down. The problem should be left for the archbishop or the vicar to deal with. They should not violate the law. We Catholics must keep in mind the guideline set by  the Vietnamese Bishop Council: “Live an evangelical life in the heart of the nation and bring happiness to everyone.” (Tran Minh Dong, former member of the Bui Phat Parish Council, District 3, HCMC)

By staff writers - Translated by Truc Thinh

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