|Vice Chairman of the provincial People's Committee, Thai Van Hang, said: "The law-breaking incident in Trai Gao parish was caused by people who lacked understanding of the law. They were incited by some organisations and individuals inside and outside the country through several religious dignitaries who led them to misunderstand the situation and commit law-breaking acts."— Photo baocongan
Public disorder earlier this year in Nghi Phuong Commune in the central province of Nghe An caused much concern. Vietnam News Agency reporters went to the scene last week. This is their report.
NGHE AN (VNS)— The rice is ripening in the paddy fields in Nghi Phuong Commune in Nghi Loc District - and the church bells ring every day. However, this peaceful scene was recently upset by the actions of some villagers.
The incident began on May 22 when the Reverend Dang Huu Nam, who is in charge of Binh Thuan parish, Nghi Thuan Commune, gathered hundreds of Catholic parishioners from different localities at Trai Gao church to pray for eight people about to stand trial at an appeal court held by the Supreme People's Court in the provincial Vinh City the following day. They were charged with conducting subversive activities.
The incident is reported to have occurred when several parishioners stopped five policemen sent to watch the situation and allegedly beat them, then detained three of them for more than two hours the same day. Hundreds of parishioners also vented their anger on Dau Van Son, the communal official in charge of military affairs in Nghi Phuong, destroying much of the property in his house, and even setting fire to live chickens.
Bishop Nguyen Thai Hop, who was present, was said to have done nothing to stop the parishioners, but looked at them with indifference as they forced the injured officers to sign a "record" falsely stating that the police "hindered parishioners from conducting religious rituals".
Nghe An police conducted an investigation into the incident. According to the investigation agency, the three policemen who were assaulted on May 23 suffered 20 per cent damage to their health, while the total economic loss to Son's family amounted to more than VND94 million (US$4,450). Son's wife and his four-year-old daughter were also reported to have suffered serious psychological trauma following the incident.
The police started criminal proceedings against those involved, alleging that they had "caused public disorder", "illegally detained people", "deliberately caused injuries" and "deliberately vandalised citizens' property". They launched legal proceedings against Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Khoi, both from Nghi Phuong Commune, and detained the two in line with legal procedures on charges of causing public disorder.
Both Hai and Khoi later showed repentance. They confessed they did not think much of it when they were shouting and inciting others to assault the official and policemen.
On August 30, the People's Committee of Nghi Loc District and provincial police invited Bishop Hop to the headquarters of Nghi Phuong Commune People's Committee to persuade more than 300 parishioners surrounding the headquarters to disperse.
"You all can go home now. I have voiced my opinion to the authorities about the incident. After five days, if the authorities do not release the detainees, it's no longer my responsibility and you are free to do what you want," Hop is said to have told the crowd.
During a working session with Nghe An police, Hop requested that the police release the two detainees.
Colonel Nguyen Huu Cau, Deputy Director of Nghe An Police, said the incident in Trai Gao parish violated the law, and the arrest of the people by police was in line with the law. He said if the bishop's office acted as guarantor for them, the police would free them, noting that they must show up if summoned.
However, Hop and three accompanying priests did not agree. On August 30 and September 3 and 4, hundreds of parishioners in My Yen parish and nearby localities surrounded the headquarters of the People's Committee of Nghi Phuong commune. They held banners and posters with provocative messages and created social disturbances apparently to put pressure on the authorities to release the arrested violators.
Some extremists even stormed into and occupied the office of the Vice Chairman of the communal People's Committee. They beat six officials of Nghi Loc District and Nghi Phuong Commune in order to force Nguyen Trong Tao, Chairman of the communal People's Committee, to write a document asking the provincial People's Committee and Police to free Khoi and Hai before 4pm on September 4, 2013.
They also forced Nguyen Huu Lam, Vice Chairman of Nghi Loc District People's Committee, to write an official confirmation document before releasing the six officials and dispersing.
On the afternoon of September 4, 30 parishioners, including the wives of Hai and Khoi, stormed into the office of the People's Committee of Nghi Phuong Commune to demand their release as written in the document that the vice chairman had been forced to write.
Meanwhile, hundreds of parishioners continued to surround the office and insulted on-duty police.
The situation became extreme when the My Yen parish church bell then suddenly started tolling in alarm, inciting thousands of Catholics to rush to the commune's People's Committee office. The extremists fought and threw stones at the police, injuring six officers.
In response, forces on duty at the site had to apply lawful measures to disperse the crowd, stop extreme acts and re-establish order.
At the same time, a local bishop appeared to talk to the parishioners. The situation was basically stabilised by 5.30pm. At 7pm the same day, the crowd dispersed.
On the basis of findings from the investigation, Nghe An police on September 7 announced they would begin criminal proceedings against those involved in the incidents in Nghi Phuong Commune on charges of causing public disorder, illegally detaining people, and resisting on-duty officials.
According to Colonel Cau, all those who give themselves up and admit their law-breaking action will be considered for release, and all those who violated the law and refuse to give themselves up will be investigated, prosecuted and arrested for trial.
Fifty four per cent of householders in Nghi Phuong Commune are Catholics. Under the Party and Government's policies on socio-economic development and improvement of living conditions, the local government has conducted various activities to help parishioners improve their incomes and lead good secular and religious lives.
Like Nghi Phuong, Yen Thanh Commune, which used to be a poor locality, has now also become one of the richest in Nghe An with hundreds of billionaires, many of them Catholics.
Similarly, Catholic Hamlet 3 in Nam Loc Commune where half of the households were poor in 2007, now has only 10 poor households.
New rural areas are taking shape with many positive changes in the province.
For this reasons, the disorder in My Yen parish has caused outrage among people, both religious and non-religious, as it harmed the bonds among people living in the same village, affected social order and local solidarity.
Vice Chairman of the provincial People's Committee, Thai Van Hang, said: "In the history of the Vietnamese revolution, the Catholic community (in Nghe An) has made numerous contributions to the defence and construction of the country as well as of the home province of Nghe An.
"The law-breaking incident in Trai Gao parish was caused by people who lacked understanding of the law. They were incited by some organisations and individuals inside and outside the country through several religious dignitaries who led them to misunderstand the situation and commit law-breaking acts." — VNA/VNS