Viet Nam News
HÀ NỘI – Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hòa Bình yesterday asked the police to investigate the alleged removal of nearly 150 graves in central Khánh Hòa Province without the knowledge of the deceased’s relatives.
The public security ministry will lead the investigation in co-ordination with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and the People’s Committee of Khánh Hòa. Any violations found must be reported to the Prime Minister, Bình said.
Vietnamese media reported the controversial news early this week when many families living in Nha Trang’s Phước Đồng Commune suddenly realised that the final resting places of their loved ones on the Hòn Rơ 2 Mountain had been dug up and relocated to a public cemetery.
The local Thanh Trúc Ltd, Co, investor of the Thanh Trúc hills and eco-villas project that stretches over the Hòn Rơ 2 Mountain, was said to be behind the removal of the graves.
Some 147 urns were moved to a cemetery in the north of the city, without any name tags or identification marks to help the families recognise which urn was of their deceased relative.
A resident Huỳnh Hữu Hùng told online newspaper zing.vn that his family had an urn in a grave on the mountain that was removed to the cemetery.
“Yet, when I came over to the cemetery, they showed me five different urns,” he said.
“How on earth do I know which is of my family member and whether it is really one of those five?”
Some were given a new grave at the cemetery. But their next of kin said these were kind of makeshift tombs with only a gravestone standing on a pile of broken bricks and rocks. The families also doubted if their loved ones were truly lying under those new so-called graves after the removal.
In a tri-party meeting yesterday between the families, the commune’s authorities and the Thanh Trúc Company, company Director Phạm Thị Ngọc Thanh apologised to the residents for not seeking their prior consent before relocating the graves.
She said the company had hired a funeral services firm to remove the graves and the Nha Trang Urban Environmental Company to build new graves in the northern cemetery.
“But I apologise for not monitoring all processes that consequently led to the regrettable incident,” she said.
Thanh Trúc Company will accept requests of the families to build new proper graves for the deceased and to inspect the Hòn Rơ 2 Mountain again to make sure no remains were left behind before starting its project.
However, Thanh said she could not respond to the families’ demand for DNA testing of all the remains for another 10 days, as it was a “complicated issue” and needed further consideration.
Phước Đồng People’s Committee Chairman Nguyễn Văn Hưởng said he also took responsibility for what had happened, and agreed with all the demands the families had placed before Thanh Trúc Company.
Infringements of graves and remains are subject to criminal charges in Việt Nam, and violators might face up to five years in prison if it leads to serious consequences, according to Article 246 of the Penal Code. – VNS