Neighbors soap opera unfolds in Saigon

Five years after they filed a lawsuit against their neighbors in Saigon’s Hoc Mon District alleging defamation and property damage, two Vietnamese Norwegian cousins aren’t letting go.

The dispute began in 2013 with the cousins installing headlights on their front gate to discourage thieves. But their neighbors demanded that the headlights be removed because their daily life was being disturbed, and started harassing the cousins.

The cousins allege that the neighbors started to break their gate, throw rocks, and curse the brothers. They did not receive much help when they petitioned local authorities, they say.

In August 2014, the cousins sued their neighbors, only referred to as Ut, and three others in the same household, for defamation and damaging property. They wanted compensation of VND30 million ($1,300) and a stop to further defamatory actions.

In mid-2015, the brothers leveled similar charges against three more people and compiled camera footage as evidence. This time, the demand was for a total of VND23 million from all seven accused.

The court organized several meetings to reconcile the two parties, but failed.

Ut acknowledged that he did shout at Hung, but did not defame him. He said Hung had slapped his son one time.

Hung said Ut called him “mat net” (uncouth) and alienated them from other neighbors.

Finally, the judge dismissed the case last week, saying the camera footage could not conclusively demonstrate property damage.

The Norwegian brothers have said they will appeal the ruling and press on with their lawsuit.