At 8 am, thursday, August 18th Pham Duy Cuong, 58, Secretary of the provincial Party’s committee, and Ngo Ngoc Tuan, 52, chairman of the legislative People’s Council were shot to death by Do Cuong Minh, provincial head of the Forestry department, in an apparent murder suicide. Speculation is ongoing, with commenters pointing out the shooter was appointed by his father-in-law, the former provincial secretary. The implication is that he murdered the secretary and the chairman because he was likely going to be terminated. It’s assumed that all of these positions are extremely lucrative due to the bribes received from illegal mineral, logging, and wildlife trade.
The two victims held the highest offices possible at the provincial level, one in the Communist Party bureaucracy, and the other in the Government, which are ostensibly separate entities. For reference, imagine the head of the Democratic party apparatus and the governor of Washington state or Idaho being gunned down by an official from the EPA.
Yen Bai province is a mountainous, sparsely populated province north-east of Hanoi that is prized for mineral deposits and forest products. Home to a number of prominent ethnic minority groups, local officials have been under fire for rampant illegal logging. The province is likewise plagued by underemployment, unstable income, inadequate childcare, limited access to healthcare, child labour, social issues related to the elderly, social evils [vice crimes], and gender inequality.
Huy Duc is a notably fearless journalist and social commenter famous for a two volume history of Vietnam after unification.]
A CRISIS AT YEN BAI, A CRISIS IN JUSTICE
An indictment is necessary because if a motive for the murders at Yen Bai can be found, even if unaffiliated or implicated, the government may still be able learn a lesson. However, the highest organs of the Communist party shouldn’t wait for the investigation to be closed, but instead ought to take a seat and realize the origins of the crisis.
This crisis did not begin at Yen Bai.
At the time of the Cong Roc affair, in Tien Lang, Hai Phong (January 1st 2012), I wrote an article titled “The Đoàn Văn Vươn Bomb” that warned, don’t allow “the bombs to blow”.[i] Twenty months later, on the evening of September 11th, 2013, in Thai Binh, a farmer named Dang Ngoc Viet grabbed a gun and rushed into the committee headquarters, firing into five cadres of the City Center for Land Development, then turned the pistol on himself…
Even though today, Doan Van Vuon has reunited with his family and returned to tilling his bloodstained parcel of land, land that seems to be developing; and even though Mr Dang Ngoc Viet had prepared a majestic death for himself, the price they and their families had to pay is too severe. Why do these two average, good-natured, people have to resort to guns and bombs?
These are the acts of people who no longer believe that this government can bring them justice.
Yesterday many people asked, “though he lost his position as head Forest Ranger, Mr Do Cuong Minh still had many opportunities, why would he choose such a tragic fate?”
Just like Mr Viet and Mr Vuon, when forced to face an unjust situation, an official from the regime will reach for the very weapons the regime supplied in order to shoot the very people who sat alongside him in the heart of the regime.
It’s not just average people, Minh’s actions show that now even cadres of the highest level no longer believe in the organizations that employ them, though these organizations bring them many perks, the organizations can’t bring them justice.
Clearly, the Yen Bai affair shows that the leaders of “our Party” are no longer safe, even when they sit in their fantastic sound proof offices (the K59 was fired in the party secretary’s office but nobody heard it). However, don’t react to swiftly strengthen the security forces or place a metal detector in front of the department gates.
It’s not as though more guns will save the lives of our dear leaders.
Only when there is no hope for justice do the people and the comrades of our leaders turn to violence. Don’t be afraid of violence to the point of increasing violence hidden beneath the rhetoric of law. Don’t reinforce these institutions in order to protect the government because doing so is no different from tying a bomb beneath your chair.
You ought to think of a route toward reform, not only so that you gentlemen can avoid the bullets of your own comrades, but also to allow the people to avoid the viccissitudes of your regime [bể dâu].
[i] Doan Van Vuon is a Vietnamese fish farmer who fought off an eviction squad with homemade guns and mines. He was given a hero’s welcome after being released early from prison.