Villages of death sentences
Updated : 08/18/2012 09:04 GMT + 7
After four of Vang A Chia’s sons were sentenced to death or jailed and his daughters-in-law left, Chia and his wife, at the age of 90, have to work hard to bring up 11 grandchildren.
Drugs have moved into poor villages in the northern region, destroying families while leaving abandoned homes and weed-covered paths in their wake.
Widespread drug use hit Ngoc Van Commune in Tan Yen District, in the northeastern province of Bac Giang, in 2003. Several farmers became addicted to drugs and left their fields.
Nguyen Van Thang, deputy head of Ngoc Van Commune’s Police Department, said that the first mobile court regarding drugs was opened at the commune People’s Committee in 2003, and sentenced the first offender to death.
Residents crowded around the people’s committee headquarters to see the hearing of Than Nhan Bo and other offenders. Bo was sentenced to death, while the others received 20 years to life sentences.
However, locals did not seem to be frightened and simply continued to trade and transport drugs in a more secretive manner, Thang told.
The appeal of cash let them quickly forget Bo’s death sentence, and thereby more people were arrested for transporting drugs.
Ngoc Van Commune then saw the death sentences of Nguyen Van Hanh and Nguyen Thi Mai, as well as others.
The abandoned house of Nguyen Thi Mai in Ngoc Van Commune in Tan Yen District in the northeastern province of Bac Giang. Photo: Tuoi Tre
According to statistics from the Police Department, 160 people from the commune are imprisoned for trafficking drugs, and seven have been sentenced to death. Police forces deterred up to 34 cases in 2004 alone.
“Being arrested or sentenced to death has become normal in this village,” Thang said.
The spacious and strong house of Than Nhan Bo is abandoned, and wild grass covers the paths. After Bo was tried his wife, Do Thi Dinh, and eldest son, Than Nhan Duong, received 20 and 15 year sentences respectively for trafficking drugs.
Bo’s daughter, Than Thi Dien, left home to live far away from her hometown.
Besides Bo, seven cousins in his family have received prison sentences for the same crime. For instance Vu Dinh Trong and Than Nhan Chuyen have been jailed for 20 years.
Not far from Bo’s house is Nguyen Thi Mai’s. After Mai was sentenced to death in 2005, her husband, Nguyen Van Trung, was arrested for trading drugs and received a 15 year prison sentence.
Villagers said that Mai’s two children studied very well and passed university entrance exams, however no one knows where they are now as they have never returned to the village after their father died. Mai’s house sits vacant, its iron gate forever closed.
Drug related sentences and 11 children
“I am too sad, death would be easier for me but I have to live. If I die, who will work on the mountain fields to feed my 11 grandchildren,” said Vang A Chia.
Chia is a Mong man from Na U Village, in the northwestern province of Dien Bien. Mong is one of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.
Chia’s second son was sentenced to death, and three others have been jailed for trading drugs, leaving the old man with 11 grandchildren whose mothers have left.
“I did not know my sons were trading drugs until they were arrested, it was too late,” he said as tears ran down his face.
His grandchildren were nestling closer into columns in the corners of the house, looking at their grandfather and the strange guests (Tuoi Tre reporters).
When the reporters arrived, Chia’s wife had just returned from the mountain field. Her hands were spattered with soot from a burnt tree branch which she used as a walking stick.
The 90 year-old woman still has to work hard every day to feed her grandchildren.
She quietly sat down on the veranda and uttered one sentence, “They all have gone way”.
Of the 11 children, only the younger ones are attending school, the others have had to give up their studies to work on the mountain fields with their grandparents.
Within seven years, Chia’s four daughters-in-law left 11 children. The grandparents must replace the parents to bring them up.
“It is too hard and miserable, but I cannot die because I have to live to cultivate corn plants and dig bulbs for them to eat,” said Chia.
“Sometimes the children ask me where their parents are, and I do not know how to answer them,” said Vang A Po, the only son who still lives with Chia.
According to officials from a local army border post, the Tay Trang Border Gate and Na U Village are two ‘hot spots’ of drug trafficking in Dien Bien Province, where most families are involved in the banned goods. They cannot remember how many people have been arrested or sentenced to death due to drugs.