Police in Hanoi have taken three men into custody for allegedly dumping construction waste in a graveyard.
Initial reports showed that, on August 21, Pham Hong Ky, an executive from An Thanh Traffic Mechanism Joint-Stock Company, ordered his drivers to discharge mud at the Dong Trua Graveyard in the Duong Noi Ward.
Duong Van Son and Nguyen Van Duong, a pair of security guards contracted to watch construction sites along Le Van Luong Street, were also arrested.
Tests carried out by police in Duong Noi Ward traced the mud back to the sites. Several truck drivers who had previously been arrested told investigators that security guards had told them to unload at the graveyard.
In addition to the arrests, police confiscated ten trucks, including four belonging to An Thanh Company.
In the meantime, a search team including hundreds of workers spent nine days digging through nearly 1,000 cubic meters of earth to uncover the tombs.
Their search efforts were hampered by continuous rains and mud up to four meters thick.
Workers had to uncover 36 tombs, which are old and in a delicate condition, very carefully and without machinery, the search party leader, Nguyen Xuan Ben, told local news website VnExpress.
Trinh Nhu Ha, vice chairman of Duong Noi People's Committee, said it will take between two and three days to clean up the mud and get the graveyard back to normal.
Affected locals will then hold a ceremony to apologize to the dead with local authorities' support, according to Ha. He estimated that the search and repair operations will cost hundreds of millions of dong.
While investigations are ongoing, locals are outraged.
"I feel so indignant!" local Dang Ba Hai told a VnExpress reporter. "I couldn't do anything but ask for help from ward authorities and then keep an eye on the search."
Hai said five of his family's burial sites were covered in the thick mud.
"This is not only against the law; it's downright immoral," he said.
According to Le Khanh Dong, chairman of Duong Noi Ward's People's Committee, local people all expect related agencies to severely punish the perpetrators.
Duong Thi Hoa, whose younger brother's tomb was buried in the mud, said, "It's lucky that the tomb wasn't damaged. I hope agencies will punish those people who have committed such a heinous act."
Desecrating a burial site in Vietnam carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.