According to a report in Vietnamese newspaper Người Lao Động (The Labourer), Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense has been asked to make clear why the land in Tam Dao National Park on which Animals Asia’s bear sanctuary is based has been declared to be of “national defense significance”.
The request came at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) on Friday 26 October, which was attended by the Ministry of Defense (MOD), the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment (MONRE), representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the military commander of Vinh Phuc Province, where Tam Dao National Park is located.
On Friday, October 5, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) informed Animals Asia that the Ministry of Defense has issued an order to evict the sanctuary operation and its 104 rescued bears.
Following the international outpouring of support that Animals Asia has received since the eviction order was issued, the potential negative impact on Vietnam’s reputation and international relations was also raised at the meeting.
It is believed that MARD will now wait for the MOD to report before passing on its recommendations to the Prime Minister for his decision.
Prior to the Ministry of Defense eviction order, construction of the center had already been delayed by park director Do Dinh Tien since September 2011. He stopped construction on September 29, two days after he had submitted a proposal to MARD to approve the application for commercial development of the land from the Truong Giang Tam Dao Joint Stock Company.
The construction was delayed for seven months, until the end of April 2012 when MARD intervened. The park director was ordered to allow construction to resume and for land to be allocated to the sanctuary according to the original approved project document. Subsequently, a Ministry of Defense order issued on July 9, suspended construction on the second phase of the sanctuary. The Ministry of Defense involvement followed lobbying by Mr Tien.
Mr Tien then later delayed construction by refusing to sign off on the 2012 workplan for construction. His sign-off is required by government protocols in order for MARD to approve the construction, despite the plan being signed off in principle by both the prime minister and MARD in the original project document.
At the current level of development the sanctuary houses 85 bears in dens with access to enclosures. The remaining 19 bears are currently in dens without enclosure-access. Construction of additional bear houses with enclosures had not been completed when the suspension order was issued.
Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia’s Vietnam director commented:
“The delays to construction caused by the park director’s refusal to sign off the 2012 workplan, and the suspension order, have had a major impact on our capacity to rescue and care for bears, with some now living in dens without access to outdoor enclosures. They are better off in dens at the sanctuary than on bile farms, but we long for them to be outside, as they were meant to be”