Catholic lawyer’s funeral disrupted by police

Police disrupted the funeral for a Catholic lawyer last week in Ho Chi Minh City, amid a disagreement over land ownership.

Police and plainclothes security officers closely monitored Therese Tran Thi Ly Hoa’s funeral service, which was held at a local church.

A group of masked men then followed the funeral procession to a cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

“We tried to hold our dead relative’s funeral well and did not cause any problems, but officials harassed us and showed a lack of respect for the dead,” Cao Ha Truc, one of Hoa’s relatives said.

Hoa spent much of her career fighting what she maintained was corruption by local government officials.

Prayers for her were held on a five-hectare plot of land from which some 100 households, many of them Catholic, were evicted in January.

Hoa’s relatives erected a temporary tent to provide shelter for mourners. They said they needed the tents, umbrellas and chairs for those people who would gather to pray for her soul for the 7-10 days following the funeral.

However, Truc said police and local government officials surrounded the site before removing chairs and other items. He added that loudspeakers were used to accuse people of acting illegally.

People evicted from the property in January said it was acquired by the Parish Foreign Missions Society in 1954, when the area was part of the State of Vietnam.

The government claims the houses on the land were built illegally and schools and public facilities will be built there instead.

After the evictions, Australian Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen, who was born in Vietnam, denounced the government’s land seizure of the land.

“This area, attached to the Catholic Parish of Loc Hung, has been the home and work centre of many families,” he said.

“Generations of people migrated from the communist North at the partitioning of Vietnam in 1954. They are mostly low-income families, students, former prisoners of conscience and amputee-veterans of the South Vietnamese Army.”

He also said “the authorities often resort to the use of force to seize properties and land in places which have potential commercial value.

“This has been a pattern of behaviour on the part of the communist government in Vietnam ironically since the so-called “doi moi” (reform) era, as demonstrated in many incidents throughout the country.”


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