A group of lawyers providing legal support for the members of Vietnam’s Peng Lei Buddhist Church who are facing fraud accusations say they don’t object to police taking hair and mouth swabs but they must follow the law.
Dang Dinh Manh, head of the group of five lawyers made the comments after police in Long An province broke into the home of church member Cao Thi Cuc, which serves as the Peng Lei Buddhist Church, forcibly taking DNA from everyone living here, including young children. The samples were taken to identify whether the children were genuinely related to adults there.
“We have no policy or position against the collection of DNA samples by security agencies, especially when this is one of the many methods regulated by the state. [In fact] we are for it, not against it,” Manh said, adding: “We require them to conduct DNA sampling on our clients on the basis of the law.”
The Investigation Security Agency of the Long An Provincial Police decided to resume its investigation into claims that church members conducted “Scams to appropriate property,” Zing News network reported last Thursday
Unidentified victims accused Le Tung Van, 90, and other individuals living in Cao Thi Cuc’s house of pretending to be monks and orphans to fraudulently appropriate donors’ property.
To prove their case local police decided to take samples for DNA testing from 27 people living in Cuc’s household on Sept. 24.
Their actions were not legal because those being sampled had not given consent, Manh said, adding that a person’s moral rights are inviolable. The police are not allowed to take DNA samples from all people living in the facility, he said, only those involved in the investigation.
Even though many people living there were not involved in the fraud claims, Manh said three to four officers grabbed their throats to take DNA swabs. He also said 10 children were sampled without being allowed to ask for their guardians to be present.
“ That makes it illegal to take samples and the results of the examination cannot be legal evidence in a criminal case.” he said.
State press also reported that the five lawyers who had not been present at the DNA sampling went to Cuc’s house to “film and record [to check if residents used] words that distorted, insulted or slandered the authorities”
Manh said the team went there on Sept. 24, when he was informed that about 50 policemen and civil servants had visited the house. When they arrived the door was barred. They were only able to get inside when authorities had finished collecting samples. Manh said it is legal for lawyers to get into a client’s home to film and take pictures.
“Regarding the press, perhaps they received information from one side and they reported the information from the point of view of the informant, we do not blame them very much,” Manh said.
“Unfortunately, they did not talk with the lawyers so that they could have an objective view of the matter.”