Supporters on Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Vietnamese activist Le Dinh Kinh, who was shot and killed by authorities during a deadly land-rights clash, as plainclothes police loitered about keeping close tabs on the gathering, according to the slain activist’s family member.
Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was killed during the early-morning Jan. 9 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, Hanoi.
Le’s granddaughter-in-law, Nguyen Thi Duyen, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service plainclothes officers hung back, taking photos of the nearly three-quarters of Dong Tam villagers who came to burn incense and pay their respects to the deceased land campaigner.
“Tens of plainclothes police kept a close watch and took photos of those who came to our home,” she said. “They didn’t threaten anyone—they were only keeping watch at the village gate, in front of my house, and at Le Dinh Kinh’s tomb from yesterday until today.”
“When we went to our grandfather’s tomb to burn incense, they also followed us to take photos,” she added.
Le’s sons, Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong, were both sentenced to death Sept. 14 for murder in connection with the deaths of three police officers who were killed in last year’s clash when they were attacked with petrol bombs and fell into a concrete shaft while running between two houses.
They were among a group of 29 villagers tried for their roles in the incident. Other punishments handed out by the court included a life sentence and other sentences ranging from six years to 15-months’ probation.
Defendants in Vietnam’s Dong Tam trial stand to hear their sentences in a court in Hanoi, Sept. 14, 2020. State media
Medical condition in jail
On Wednesday, Duyen told RFA that defense attorney Le Van Hoa visited her father-in-law Le Dinh Cong in prison three days ago and said that he was suffering from atopic dermatitis, or eczema, and had developed a fungal infection on his scalp and abdomen but had yet to receive effective treatment from prison officials.
Le Van Hoa said the death row inmate had requested medicine from his family members.
Despite his medical condition, Duyen said that her father-in-law is “in good spirits” and had told Hoa he plans to “fight until the end.”
Five of the group’s members—the brothers, Le Dinh Doanh, Bui Viet Hieu and Nguyen Quoc Tien—have appealed the ruling, saying the sentences were too harsh for first time offenders. Court officials have yet to set a date for the review of their cases or provide any updates to their legal team and family members.
Four others who had raised their concern online and with foreign governments were arrested. Among them were Can Thi Theu and her two sons Trinh Ba Tu and Trinh Ba Phuong, three publishers of a citizen journalist report on the Dong Tam clash that came out a month after the incident and contradicted the official view.
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 Joshua Lipes.