Kon Tum: Vietnamese Catholics demand the truth about Fr Thanh's murder

On the eve of the Lunar New Year Fr Tran Ngoc Thanh was stabbed while administering the sacrament of Reconciliation. Doubts about a motive linked to mental problems: the local Christian community is calling for justice in a case that has been almost completely ignored in the country. The murder took place in a mission area, where several ethnic groups live together.



Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - After the killing of the Dominican priest Fr Tran Ngoc Thanh, the local Vietnamese community is demanding truth about the reasons for the murder, expressing sadness at the scant media coverage given to such a serious event in Vietnam. 

On 31st January, the eve of the Lunar New Year, Fr Thanh was administering the sacrament of confession shortly after evening mass in Dak Mót parish, when an armed man entered and stabbed him to death with a knife. According to local police, the attacker was a mentally ill person called Kien Nguyen.

More details, reported by VietCatholic News, have emerged in recent days. While the few faithful still present in the church were running away, the choir director, Dominican Brother Phan Van Giao, who was on the opposite side of the chapel, managed to stop the assailant and pin him to the ground with the help of other parishioners before he could commit a massacre. Brother Giao then arranged for Fr Thanh to be taken to hospital, but the priest died of head injuries around 11.30pm that evening.

The region where this tragic event took place is a mission area where the Church still has a loosely structured presence. Fr Thanh had been assigned in 2018 to the parish of Dak Mót in the diocese of Kon Tum, which is located in the central region of Vietnam. The chapel itself, where Eucharistic celebrations are also held, is very small and can only accommodate a small number of faithful. The confessional (see photo) is located to the side of a tiny room.

Most of the local religious community is of the Sedang ethnic group, while the attacker, Kien Nguyen, belongs to the Kinh, the majority ethnic group in Vietnam. Kien said he was Catholic, but rarely came to Mass, local sources said. According to VietCatholic News, the murder was premeditated. However, lawyer Le Quoc Quan wrote that in-depth investigations would be needed to determine whether Kien was really suffering from mental disorders or whether he had other motives in carrying out the murder.

"The local media," he said, "are caught up in a frenzy of reporting on minor events, such as the death of Tran Thanh's cat, a famous Vietnamese comedian, but it is worrying that such a serious murder has not found a place in official news channels. He concludes: "The conscience of the faithful is asking and demanding that a voice be raised, that the truth be told so that people understand the seriousness of the matter and that justice be done in this case".