Quang Ninh Province on Tuesday suspended the highest official and the police chief of a local neighborhood after some of its residents were found setting off firecrackers illegally during the Lunar New Year Festival, or Tet.
The two officials, who manage Ha An Ward in Quang Yen, a town right next to Ha Long Bay, have been criticized for failing to police the nationwide ban on firecrackers, which has been in place for more than two decades.
Hefty fines must be imposed on those who have violated the ban, said a statement released by the northern province.
Among the violators was 16-year-old Pham Van Hien of Quang Yen Town.
Hien was caught lighting firecrackers at 11:55 on February 18, five minutes to the Lunar New Year, police said.
Local residents said people who still celebrate the festival with firecrackers are either rich people or those who often travel to the border with China and smuggle the illegal products into Vietnam.
According to the Ministry of Health, 60 people have been hospitalized for injuries caused by firecrackers during the Tet holiday, 32 of whom were hospitalized on the Lunar New Year's Eve.
In 1994, Vietnam banned the production, trade and use of firecrackers on safety reasons.
At first the ban had disappointed some who believed that firecrackers were the hallmark of the Lunar New Year, saying they could scare off evil spirits and bring good luck.
Violations were rare after the ban, but have become more common in recent years in several northern provinces, including Hai Duong, Nam Dinh, Ha Giang and Quang Binh, local media reported.