The wife of an elderly community leader killed by Vietnamese police during a land protest outside Hanoi in January has petitioned central government authorities to account for her husband’s death, asking also that they provide information on relatives now held in detention.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Wednesday, Du Thi Thanh—wife of slain Dong Tam village chief Le Dinh Kinh—said she is asking government officials to clear her husband of accusations of wrongdoing, adding she is worried about her son and nephews who were injured in the clash.
“I don’t know how the authorities will receive my petition, but I hope that they will at least send my nephews to a hospital for treatment. I sent my petition through the post office because I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
“I hope I can win exoneration for my husband,” Du said.
Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed on Jan. 9 by police who attacked his home in Dong Tam’s Hoanh village in an early morning assault that involved about 3,000 security officers from the police and armed forces.
Though official reports said that villagers had assaulted police with grenades and petrol bombs, a report drawn from witness accounts and released seven days later by journalists and activists said that police had attacked first during the deadly clash that also claimed the lives of three police officers.
Police blocked off pathways and alleys during the attack and beat villagers “indiscriminately, including women and old people,” the report said, calling the assault “possibly the bloodiest land dispute in Vietnam in the last ten years.”
The Dong Tam tragedy was the latest flare-up of a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.
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.
Also speaking to RFA, attorney Ngo Anh Tuan, who is providing legal assistance to the residents of Dong Tam, said he believes that authorities will reply to Du’s petition before too long.
“She sent her letter to the Supreme People’s Procuracy, to Police Minister To Lam, and to the Police Ministry’s investigations department,” Ngo said, adding that he will follow up with further information and requests if a reply is received.
“If they do not reply to her, we will send this petition again to other organizations," Ngo said.
“[The authorities] must provide an explanation for Le Dinh Kim’s death.”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.