Indignation has been mounting in a central Vietnamese area after the local government formally required all residents here, with certain exceptions, to pay some money as a fee to celebrate a buffalo-slaying festival that may be perceived as barbarous.
The administration of Hong Tien Commune in Thua Thien-Hue Province said it would collect VND300,000 (US$13) from each of the 347 families here to cover expenses for the public event scheduled for November 18.
It underlined that the 46 families classified as below the poverty line can optionally chip in while the others must pony up the sum.
“It’ll be better that poor households pay, but it’s still fine that they don’t,” said Le Van Hoa, chairman of the Hong Tien People’s Committee, a name for the local government.
The total collected amount is expected to exceed VND90 million ($3,870), whose disbursement would be made transparent, Hoa said, seemingly to dispel a general doubt that some officials may pocket the money clandestinely.
Many commune dwellers were not happy about the decision, with one of them saying that the government would refuse to notarize their documents if they failed to contribute financially to the festival.
Some wanted the event to be canceled, citing its scary scenes.
Chairman Hoa added that he had not obtained a clearance from a superior competent agency, the Department of Culture and Sports in Thua Thien-Hue.
But he noted the approval was possible since the festival is a traditional practice.
He should be disappointed, as the department’s head, Cao Chi Hai, separately told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the decision is wrong and the case would be immediately handled.
The buffalo-killing festival, Hai added, exhibits cruelty and violence, and its celebration runs counter to the department’s currently adopted view.
In this sacrifice event, a sturdy water buffalo is stabbed with a spear by a dancing man after each short interval until the pole-tethered animal collapses in agony amid its own blood.
The buffalo is used as an offering to gods who in locals’ imagination have given them bumper crops.
Such a buffalo-slaying custom no longer survives in two ethnic-minority districts in Thua Thien-Hue, where the tradition used to linger, following the government’s dissuasion and public opposition.