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Vietnamese officials meet Benedictines over land dispute

Benedictines reject government documents on confiscation of their lands

ucanews.com reporter, Hue

ucanews.com reporter, Hue

Published: July 18, 2017 09:49 AM GMT

Updated: July 18, 2017 09:55 AM GMT

Vietnamese officials meet Benedictines over land dispute

Benedictines (left) recited a short prayer before a meeting with Vietnamese government officials over a land dispute on July 12 in Hue City. Despite the meeting being over three hours long, officials gave the monks little time to present their case. (Photo supplied)

Government authorities in central Vietnam offered no gesture of goodwill in dealing with a long-standing land dispute with Benedictines at a meeting between both sides, the monks have said.

Twelve Benedictines led by Father Anthony Nguyen Van Duc, superior of Thien An Monastery, met 15 officials of Thua Thien Hue Province at the headquarters of the People's Committee of the province on July 12.

Also present at the meeting were Fathers Anthony Duong Quynh and George Nguyen Thanh Phuong representing the Hue Archbishop's House.

"The meeting lasted three and half hours but had no successful result because government officials showed no positive sign of openly having dialogue with us to resolve the dispute," Father Peter Khoa Cao Duc Loi, who attended the meeting, told ucanews.com.

Father Loi said during the meeting, officials talked a lot about two decisions to confiscate most of the monastery's 107 hectares of land, pine forests and facilities, and the loaning of part of that land to a local tourism company. Only five hectares of land has been left for the monks.

One decision was issued in 1999 by then deputy prime minister Nguyen Cong Tan and the other was issued in 2002 by Inspector General Tran Quoc Vuong.

In his July-10 petition to the People's Committee of Thua Thien Hue Province, Father Duc said the two decisions were issued outside the competence of the deputy prime minister and the inspector general.

"So, we do not accept them and endlessly complain to the government about it," said Father Duc. Since 2002, the monks have yet to receive a official response, said the priest.

Father Loi said, "They made the wrong decision to grab our property and accused us of intentionally encroaching on their land."

During the meeting, officials promised to give the monastery 200 square meters of land to re-erect an iron cross but asked the monks to work with the government to enlarge a cement road leading to the monastery and to allow residents — now living on what was the monk's land before it was confiscated — to use the road.

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Father Anthony Vo Van Giao said in the past the authorities refused the monks' request to build this road because they said the road lay on land run by the government. No one lived on the monks' land until the government confiscated and sold it to people, said the priest.

During the meeting the officials ignored assaults committed by police and gangsters against the monks on June 28-29, Father Giao said.

The officials also gave the monks little time to present their argument during the meeting.

Father Loi said at the end of the meeting, "officials asked us to obey the law and sign an 11-page record of the meeting that had already been prepared by them but we refused and opposed it."

Father Duc asked the government to return all land, pine forests and facilities that the government had confiscated from the monks. He also urged them to respect the monks' religious freedom and property rights.

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