Hanoi jails vigilantes for stopping, detaining sand thieves

By Hai Thu   June 28, 2022 | 04:45 pm PT
Hanoi jails vigilantes for stopping, detaining sand thieves
Nguyen Van Cuong (R) and his accomplices at a court in Soc Son District of Hanoi where they received jail terms after using force to capture and detain illegal sand miners, June 28, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Danh Lam
Four Hanoi men received jail terms of seven to ten years after using force to capture and detain illegal sand miners.

The Soc Son District court sentenced Nguyen Van Cuong, 40, to 10 years in prison on Tuesday after finding him guilty of "robbery" and "arresting people illegally."

On the same charges, the court sentenced Nguyen Tuan Anh, 21, to seven years, while two other defendants, Duong Van Quy, 27, and Duong Van Cuong, 28, received nine years each.

According to the verdict, around 0:22 a.m. on Jul. 11, 2018, Dao Cong Thanh, 56, and four others took two boats to a section of the Cau River in Trung Gia Commune of Soc Son District to mine sand illegally.

The boats were anchored around 30m from the bank, next to a farm owned by Cuong. On learning about the sand mining, he mobilized Anh, Quy and Cuong to join him in chasing the sand thieves away.

Cuong’s group took a boat to where the thieves were mining sand and used iron pipes to threaten them.

While Thanh and another woman in his group hid in the cabin of their boat, three others jumped into the water and fled the scene.

Cuong and his accomplices then hit Thanh with the iron pipes and tied him up with a robe. They also seized two mobile phones from Thanh and the woman and took the duo to Cuong’s home.

Around 30 minutes later, Soc Son police rescued Thanh after being informed by his wife.

Cuong was cut in the arm by one of the sand thieves but this incident will be investigated later, police said, adding they have not found out who was responsible.

Cuong told the judges that he had informed local police before approaching the illegal sand miners, but no officers had showed up.

"I had no intention of capturing or tying up anyone, but after I got on to their boat, they attacked me with a knife," he said.

Cuong also said he only took the phones to prevent Thanh from calling for help and "had no intention of appropriating anyone's assets."

But the judge panel maintained that Cuong and his accomplices had no authority to take the actions they did. It was illegal to use force to detain someone and take them home, they said.

The judges said the behavior violated the inviolability of people’s bodies and property and threatened the lives of others, and the act of taking the two phones was enough to constitute the crime of "robbery."

Thanh was fined VND22.5 million (nearly $1,000) for mining sand without legal permission and using a boat that was not officially registered.

Authorities have failed to stop illegal sand mining that has been happening for many years in different parts of the country. Reports have said that penalties are not enough of a deterrent and implementation of regulations has also been lax. In many cases, local people have chosen to fight illegal sand miners themselves.

Senior officials from the Ministry of Public Security have said earlier that it was difficult to press criminal charges because authorities had to prove that the miners had stolen more than VND100 million ($4,300) worth of sand in a single case or that the value of the sand exploited exceeded VND500 million in value. There was no mechanism for authorities to calculate this, the officials claimed.

Vietnam is not the only country to suffer illegal sand mining.

Global demand for sand and gravel, used extensively in construction, was around 50 billion tons a year, according to a report published by the U.N. Environment Program in 2018.

Extraction from rivers and beaches has increased pollution and flooding, reduced groundwater levels, hurt marine life, and exacerbated the occurrence and severity of landslides and drought in many places, the UNEP report said.

go to top