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Saturday,  Nov 25,2017,14:31 (GMT+7)

The cost of negligence

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Jun 30,2017,21:11 (GMT+7)
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The cost of negligence

Son Nguyen

The heritage has been damaged to an unrecoverable extent when the tomb of a concubine of King Tu Duc under the Nguyen Dynasty was bulldozed last week in a project to develop a parking lot in the former imperial city of Hue. It is not an act of sabotage, but rather an unintentional activity to upgrade related facilities for visitors to the mausoleum of King Tu Duc. However, it is the negligence on the part of both the developer and local authorities that result in the irreparable consequence.

The treasure, so to say, should have been unknowingly destroyed and buried for good but for the protests of locals who later provided information to newspapers.

As covered in local media, Chuoi Gia Tri Joint Stock Company in 2015 was awarded a project by Hue City’s government to develop a parking lot covering 17,200 square meters, which also encompasses a graveyard of over 7,200 square meters. Relatives of the deceased have been told to remove all the remains from the graveyard, but there were still 81 tombs unclaimed for as of last month, including the concubine’s tomb, which is a solid domed structure with high walls covering some 45 square meters.

Hue City authorities to date have not handed over the land to Chuoi Gia Tri, pending negotiations with a few families over the compensation. However, on June 19, the company deployed vehicles and machines to level the ground, bulldozing all the remaining tombs including the sprawling structure being the tomb of the aforesaid concubine with the royal title of My Phi the following day, according to the news site Giao Duc Viet Nam.

The day after, the news spread widely as protesting locals informed newspapers of the abnormal activity. Local authorities upon learning of the incident ordered a halt for further examination. After days of searching, a tombstone engraved with the name of the concubine was found last Saturday, Nguoi Lao Dong reports.

Then the blame game begins.

Hue City’s Land Management Center points the accusing finger at Chuoi Gia Tri, saying the company had started construction though the land had not been handed over to them, leading to the destruction of the mausoleum, according to Nguoi Lao Dong.

However, Nguyen Anh Tuan, deputy director of the center, says that in the process of site inspection, the concubine’s mausoleum was not recorded.

Tuan says in Thanh Nien that he has made several field trips to the site, and has met with numerous grassroots officials and local residents, but no one has ever told him about such a mausoleum in the area.

Phan Thanh Hai, director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Center, says in Tuoi Tre that Chuoi Gia Tri Company was wrong when proceeding with construction work without informing his center as an agency concerned. However, Hai also asserts that he has never heard of the concubine’s mausoleum.

“As far as I am concerned, many previous studies have only mentioned the mausoleum of Hoc Phi as another concubine (of the Nguyen Dynasty). There are no other mausoleums of any other concubines in the area,” he is quoted in Tuoi Tre.

Chuoi Gia Tri as the developer, meanwhile, explained they did not know of the concubine’s mausoleum in the graveyard, leading to the regrettable incident.

In this special case, being unknowledgeable is unacceptable, however, as it only reveals the negligence of agencies concerned.

According to Giao duc Viet Nam, some locals have painstakingly resisted construction on the graveyard as it is home to the mausoleums of two concubines namely Hoc Phi and My Phi. These two mausoleums are located closely and are in close proximity to King Tu Duc’s mausoleum.

When machines and vehicles were gathered on June 19, some locals told construction workers that the mausoleum had to be kept intact, but they did not heed. The day after, the structure was gone.

According to the news site Vietnamnet, many agencies must be held accountable for the huge mistake, from the investor to the provincial Department of Culture and Sports, grassroots administrative units, and some other management bodies, for their failure to attend to heritage sites in the locality.

“Before the project was started, there had been information about the ancient tomb in the graveyard… It is unacceptable that related agencies only stepped in after news about it surfaced,” the online paper quotes a local as saying.

Do Bang, chairman of Thua Thien-Hue Province’s Historical Science Society, says in Nguoi Lao Dong that “the grave covers up to 50 square meters with the tombstone and surrounding walls, then it is unacceptable when they said they did not know.”

According to Thanh Nien, the list of ancestral tablets carrying the names of King Tu Duc’s concubines placed in the king’s mausoleum includes that of My Phi. Her ancestral tablet is placed to the left in the first position, says the paper.

Despite the presence of the concubine’s ancestral tablet in the king’s mausoleum, and despite the tombstone engraved with her name placed in her mausoleum, it is weird that local authorities have failed to verify such a heritage site in the graveyard right in the heart of the former imperial city after many long years.

At a meeting this Monday, Le Quoc Tuan, director of Chuoi Gia Tri Company, made a formal apology to the public, and promised to make all efforts to rebuild the concubine’s mausoleum that has been razed to the ground, Giao duc Viet Nam reports. “We will start restoring and rebuilding the mausoleum with the assistance from the Hue Monuments Conservation Center,” he is quoted as saying.

The mausoleum can be rebuilt, but reconstruction cannot help recover the heritage. It is lost for good, which is the huge cost of negligence.

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