Officials punished for illegal renovation of millennium-old pagoda

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A file photo of Tram Gian Pagoda in Chuong My District, Hanoi, before it went through an unauthorized renovation this year

Authorities in Hanoi have disciplined five local officials and a senior nun for violations leading to the controversial unauthorized renovation of a 1,000-year-old pagoda.

In a report to Hanoi's People's Committee on Saturday, Chuong My District authorities said the officials, including Vu Van Dong, vice chairman of the district's People's Committee, were punished for their lax management of the Tram Gian (Hundreds of Rooms) Pagoda in Tien Phuong Commune, according to Vietnam News Agency.

Besides the punishment, Tong Ba Luong, vice chairman of Tien Phuong's People's Committee, was also dismissed from his position as head of the local relic site management board.

According to the district People's Committee, the case was a "deep lesson" about relic site management that needed to be remembered.

Last month end an inspection team from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism reported that the pagoda's nuns and members of the surrounding community had initiated a three-month renovation without notifying local authorities.

They later told inspectors that the pagoda was near collapse and that they felt compelled to repair the structure in advance of the upcoming hurricane season

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By the time the renovation was discovered, a hall, a tower and the front stairs of the pagoda had been destroyed and were being replaced with new works.

Hanoi authorities halted the renovation and ordered the district to review violations and damages.

However, at a press conference immediately following the discovery, local authorities and several experts downplayed the scale of the damages, saying that they were not serious and that it would be possible to restore the pagoda.

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