How the law treats residents and officials differently
  • By Bui Hoang Tam | dtinews.vn | May 04, 2017 02:47 PM
Despite breaking the law by allowing the destruction of 116 hectares of forest in Phu Yen Province, the local authorities have only described their violations as ‘careless’.


Nearly 116 hectares of protective forest in Phu Yen Province are destroyed

Phu Yen provincial authorities approved the destruction of nearly 116 hectares of protective forest despite not having bothered having an environmental impact report by the Natural Resources and Environment and prime ministerial approval. The work was done in advance of an ASEAN beauty pageant.

"It will take a year or two to complete all procedures while the beauty pageant is going to be held in July. So we created favourable conditions for the investor," Mai Kim Loc, vice director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment suggested as an excuse.

But Loc said his department wasn't responsible as they received the order from the provincial people's committee.

This is not only a severe violation of land management regulations but will also badly affect the environment.

Moreover, according to the HCM City Law Newspaper, the provincial authorities even gave the investors certificates of merit on October 31, 2016 for ground clearance achievements. On January 10, provincial vice chairman Nguyen Chi Hien ordered investors to co-operate with relevant agencies to completely clear the forest by February 10.

But after the violation was discovered and the prime minister demanded a report of the case, Phu Yen authorities only said they were careless. Huynh Tan Viet, party secretary-cum-chairman of Phu Yen People's Council, said, "We'll submit the report about our mistakes and details about the case to the prime minister and see whether the project can be resumed."

It's unbelievable that they only need to admit mistakes after destroying over hundred hectares of protective forest. How many more hectares need to be destroyed so that they will be reprimanded or warned?

In 2015, Dong Nai Province People's Court opened a trial to determine the fate of eight locals for destroying public assets after they chopped down just 12 mangrove trees of Bien Hoa Forestry Centre. Five offenders were sentenced to five months and four days of imprisonment, and three were given six months of suspended sentences.

It's unclear how many trees have fallen in the total of 116 hectares of forest. But if the sentences given to the offenders by Dong Nai Province People's Court are to be applied, then those involved in Phu Yen case will probably face thousands of years in prison.

They're lucky that they are in Phu Yen and not Dong Nai Province and the investors only acted upon the authorities' approval and order.

And the leeways have always been given to the officials while hard laws are applied to the residents in Vietnam. That's why the authorities of Phu Yen can admit their ‘mistakes’ so nonchalantly. They will probably promise self-criticism and lesson learnt.

Despite clear evidence of illegality, it's unclear how this case will end.

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