Two Get Death as Dong Tam Violent Land Dispute Trial Ends in Vietnam
RFA | 9-14-2020
A court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi on Monday sentenced two defendants to death,
also handing down a life sentence and other sentences ranging from six years to
15-months’ probation, in the trial of 29 villagers over a deadly land-rights
clash in January at the Dong Tam commune.
Brothers Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, both sentenced to death, had been
charged with murder in the deaths of three police officers who were killed in
the Jan. 9 clash when they were attacked by petrol bombs and fell into a
concrete shaft while running between two houses.
Their father, Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was also killed during
the early-morning raid on the village by 3,000 security officers intervening in
a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25
miles south of the capital.
Le Dinh Cong’s son Le Dinh Doanh was sentenced on Monday to life in prison,
while another defendant, Bui Viet Hieu, was given a 16-year prison term and
Nguyen Quoc Tien and Nguyen Van Tuyen were handed 12 and 13 year terms
Others received prison terms of five and six years, and 17 received suspended
sentences, with 13 of that group released by the court, sources told RFA’s
Vietnamese Service at the end of the trial, which began on Sept. 7 and ended
last Thursday, with sentencing postponed till today.
Nguyen Thi Duyen—niece-in-law of village leader Le Dinh Kinh, who was shot and
killed by police during the raid—told RFA on Monday that she was not surprised
by the outcome of the trial, saying, “I had prepared myself for the worst.”
“Certainly, [the Vietnamese court and police] would have done all they could to
ensure that the Dong Tam residents would have to endure long terms in jail,” she
‘As I said in court there were four deaths to be accounted for in this case,”
added defense attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, also speaking to RFA. “Therefore, the
court really needed to investigate and closely check what happened in all of
“There was never enough evidence to charge Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc with
murder,” Nguyen added.
Calls for witnesses rejected
At the trial, presiding judge Truong Viet Toan had rejected defense requests to
summon as witnesses Hanoi chairman Nguyen Duc Chung—now held under detention in
an unrelated corruption investigation—and representatives of the Ministry of
Defense and Hanoi’s Public Security Department, saying these officials were not
relevant to the case.
Slain village elder Le Dinh Kinh’s widow Du Thi Thanh, mother of the two men
sentenced to death, was also not allowed to appear as a witness in court,
sources close to the trial said.
On Monday, Du filed a petition with senior Vietnamese leaders, including
Vietnam’s prime minister and the Minister of Police, denouncing Public Security
Ministry spokesman To An Xo, who had referred in a recent statement to Le Dinh
Kinh as a “new type of wicked landlord.”
Before he was shot and killed by police, Le had never been prosecuted for any
crime and had no criminal record, Du said in her petition, demanding that
Vietnamese leaders hold To accountable for slandering her husband’s memory.
Reached for comment on the trial, Hanoi-based dissident activist Nguyen Quang A
slammed Monday’s sentences, calling Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party “deaf and
blind” to justice. “The Vietnamese government always just imposes its will,
resulting in atrocities and inhumane acts against [the country’s] people,” he
“The heavy sentences against the Dong Tam defendants, including the death
sentence against two persons, come as no surprise,” added Phil Robertson, Deputy
Asia Director of Human Rights Watch in a statement Monday.
“Vietnam’s rulers are bending over backwards to show their toughest possible
face against the Dong Tam villagers because they worry this community’s defiance
could be contagious unless the defendants are hit with the most severe
penalties,” Robertson said.
“With the ruling communist party’s national congress just a few months away,
there was never a possibility of anything but a rushed trial through a
controlled court that would throw the book at these defendants.”
Carl Thayer, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales in
Australia, meanwhile called the Dong Tam raid and resulting trial “a culmination
of 40 years of problems with land” in Vietnam.
“Trials in Vietnam are not free and fair as we understand them,” Thayer said.
“It’s not rule of law. It’s rule by law. The political decision is: you either
put them on trial or you don’t. And if you’re putting them on trial, you’re
predetermining [the outcome].”
While all land in Vietnam is ultimately held by the state, land confiscations
have become a flashpoint as residents accuse the government of pushing small
landholders aside in favor of lucrative real estate projects, and of paying too
little in compensation to farming families displaced by development.
Reported by RFA’s
Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.