About 50 policemen stormed the premises of Tinh That Bong Lai (also known as Thien Am on the Cosmic Coast) in Hoa Khanh Tay commune, Duc Hoa district, Long An province on the morning of September 24, conducting sampling saliva and hair of people in the facility. The lawyer representing the people at Thien Am told RFA that he suspects the police took DNA samples from people in Thien Am to find blood relations.
Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, one of five lawyers representing people at Thien Am, wrote on his personal Facebook on the same day that the lawyers who received news of the incident immediately went to Thien Am and were blocked at police posts that were set up near the facility. There are three police patrol points, Mr. Manh said.
Lawyer Manh said the incident happened when “The maid opened the door, they automatically entered. They dragged dozens of people. They read the house search order. The nuns and maids did not understand what the order said. After reading it, they didn’t leave any documents, so I don’t understand if there is an order or decision in this case.”
Because they did not understand the cause of the incident, the people in Thien Am did not voluntarily allow the police to take saliva and hair samples. Lawyer Manh quoted the accounts of people in Thien Am on Facebook as follows:
“They pushed us out, they went in all over the house on their own.”
“Three or four people hugged, broke their hands, squeezed their throats, forcing us to open our mouths to take samples of the lining of the mouth. Pull our hair out.”
According to lawyer Manh, this is not only for adults but also for children. There were about 10 people in Thien Am at that time, including two men, including Mr. Le Tung Van (90 years old), the rests were women and children.
Talking about the reason why the police forced people in Thien Am to give samples of saliva and hair, lawyer Manh said:
“All of that seems to be that they want to get DNA so they can test for the blood relationship of the people in the facility. This is already their third time sampling. The previous two times were in August 2021 and January 4, 2022.”
Lawyer Manh said the police did not have any official announcement about the results of the previous two tests.
According to the Long An Provincial Police, in the years 2020 and 2021, the authorities in Duc Hoa district have received many letters accusing some people living in Bong Lai Tinh that have committed three criminal acts related crimes: Abuse of democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals; incestuous; fraudulent appropriation of assets.
On January 4, 2022, the Investigative Police Department of Duc Hoa District Public Security opened a case and prosecuted Mr. Le Tung Van and three other people at Thien Am for abusing the rights of democracy infringes upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals, according to Article 331 of the Criminal Code.
On June 9, 2022, the People’s Procuracy of Long An province issued an indictment against six people of Thien Am under Article 331. These people were later sentenced to a total of more than 23 years in prison.
Particularly for incest and fraud allegations, on July 26, the Long An Provincial Police Investigation Security Agency said it had temporarily suspended the handling of denunciations of individuals and organizations about incestuous.
A source from Thanh Nien newspaper at the end of July said, “Currently, the Investigation Security Agency of Long An Provincial Police is waiting for some more results on genetic testing and analysis from specialized agencies on genetics. When there are positive results like the denunciation content, combined with specific pieces of evidence collected during the investigation, the Investigative Body will resume the investigation to continue and move on to the investigation phase.”
Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said that it is illegal for the police to force people in Thien Am to give saliva and hair samples at this time:
“In my opinion, this is a serious violation of due process. Because when an incident becomes a criminal case, the investigative agency can do it like this morning. So far they have not probed. They have the right to investigate before prosecution, but they are not allowed to arbitrarily enter the home.”
Lawyers representing those at Thien Am are currently reviewing the incident on the morning of September 24 so they can “consider taking the necessary legal action,” lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA but did not specify what these legal actions are.