Crime and punishment

Youth crimes – including robbery and murder – are increasingly brazen these days, but experts have yet to concur on the exact causes and possible solutions.

Experts say that while education and family problems are to blame for Vietnam’s more alarming juvenile crimes, they have also pointed their fingers at the media and lenient laws.

People in the northern province of Ha Tay were shocked when two eighth-grade, 14-year-old boys murdered a five-year-old boy earlier this month.

They were charged with holding the boy for ransom and killing him.

The crime was committed in a similar fashion to popular detective stories, said local police.

But the case was just one of many terrible crimes committed by Vietnamese youth recently.

Vietnamese under 16 committed some 7,000 crimes last year and over the first three months of this year, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

The number accounts for up to 70 percent of crimes committed by people under 18 in Vietnam, according to the ministry’s statistics.

Why are the kids bad?

The causes of juvenile delinquency were rooted in societal corruption, dysfunctional families and poor education, said Dr. Nguyen Kim Quy, a psychologist from the Vietnam Association for Psychology and Pedagogy.

“However, the most basic cause is the way parents bring up their children at a very early age,” she said.

Teenaged criminals often have parents who are either un-educated or too busy working to care for and teach their children morals and values, said Quy.

Nguyen Thi Huyen, a judge at the Hanoi City People’s Criminal Court, attributed youth crimes to poor education and the lack of structure in the family and at school.

Children who were subject to violence in their daily lives at the hands of family members, or involved in a crime-ridden society or even victimized at school by abusive teachers, were very likely to become violent criminals, Quy said.

Some experts have said that child-crime was on the rise due to violent films and video games as well as crimes reported in the newspapers.

Violent films often portrayed murder and kidnapping in intimate detail while failing to show children the terrible consequences of these actions, Quy said.

It was time adults reviewed the effects of the modern mass media, Judge Huyen said.

Teenagers are also easily addicted to online video games, which are often costly.

Uber-addicted youths sometimes result to crime as a way to get money to pay for their games.

Lawyer Nguyen Thai Dung said he once defended a 17-year-old boy charged with robbery after he and five other kids tried to rob a taxi driver of VND85,000 (US$5.2) to play for online games.

The group, including one 14-yearold, was sentenced to 40 years in total.

Some law enforcement and psychology experts have also said that lenient punishment could be a factor contributing to youth crime.

Punishment for young criminals in Vietnam does not include the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Penalties for people under-18 are generally lighter than those for adults.

Teenagers are fully aware they will not be subject to the highest punishment if they commit a crime.

Tran Van Luan and Dao Van Nam, for example, killed a husband and a wife for money in Hanoi.

The duo showed no fear when they were arrested.

Luan even said, “This is the first crime I’ve committed so the death penalty is impossible!”

Cooperative measures a must

It is parents that teach children ethics and discipline and “It is very important to instill in children the seeds of human values,” said Quy.

“Good and evil co-exist in each person. What matters is limiting the evil.”

Dr. Trinh Tien Viet of the Criminology Research Center of Hanoi National University said it was necessary to recognize “strange” behavior in children, a responsibility that rested with the family.

For children aged 14-16, parents need to know who they spent time with and what their likes and needs were in order to provide proper guidance, said Viet.

Preventative measures would be the key to ending juvenile delinquency, said Viet.

There were various ways to avert youth crimes, but deterrents shouldn’t be too “strong” he said.

It was a mistake to put teen criminals in prison, where Viet said they would “have the opportunity to learn from seasoned criminals.”

Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court Deputy Chief Phan Tanh said the most effective way to lessen juvenile delinquency would be for communities, families, schools and judiciary-law enforcement agencies to work out cooperative measures to combat the problem .

He suggested establishing a teenager-specific court to make juvenile trials more effective and efficient while ensuring children’s rights.

He said the rehabilitation and education of juvenile delinquents should be strengthened.

Growing concern

Around 20,000 school-age children were living on the street and forming gangs nationwide, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

They were very likely to commit robbery, murder and drug related crimes, according to the Criminal Statistic Bureau at the People’s Supreme Court.

In the five years since 2001, the number of juvenile delinquents has increased each year, reported Dr. Tran Thi Huong from the HCMC University of Pedagogy at a conference on juvenile delinquency held last year in HCMC.

The actual number of juvenile delinquents was two to three times higher than those went to court, according to the HCMC Department of Public Security.

About 34.6 percent of reported youth criminals repeated their crimes last year, according to HCMC People’s Court.

One dead, 15 injured in canteen collapse

A man was killed and 15 other people were injured when the wooden floor of a canteen at the Saigon Water Supply Corporation (Sawaco) gave way Friday, spilling party-goers into a lake.

The accident happened at around 7:30 p.m. Friday when 50 or 60 people were gathered in the canteen at Sawaco’s headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3.

“The floorboards suddenly collapsed as we were having a party,” one victim told Thanh Nien.

“Many of us tumbled into the lake below. People then rushed to the scene and used the ropes to pull us up.”

The wooden canteen was built over an eight to 10-meter-deep lake which has been neglected since 1975.

Victims were rushed to the Saigon emergency center and other hospitals in the city.

However, 28-year-old Vo Duy Linh could not be revived.

Another 15 people suffered multiple injuries but no brain trauma was reported, doctors said.

Investigations into the cause of accident are underway, authorities said Friday.

Reported by Thanh Nien staff

  Story from Thanh Nien News
Published: 24 May, 2008, 15:00:19 (GMT+7)
Copyright Thanh Nien News

Police probe child abuse case in central Vietnam

Police probe child abuse case in central Vietnam T., a sixth-grade student from the central province of Quang Nam, was forced to crawl around a rocky yard by his father who is under police investigation Police in the central province of Quang Nam on Monday began an investigation into a local resident’s alleged maltreatment of his 12-year-old son.

Nguyen Ngoc Th., 33, is accused of forcing his son, T., to crawl naked around a rocky yard at the provincial Duong Thanh Hamlet Cultural House in Tra Duong Commune for several hours on Saturday morning.

The abuse was caught on tape by another resident and sent to Thanh Nien.

The footage showed Th. whipping his son’s back whenever the child slowed the pace of his crawling.

Th. allegedly carried out the abuse to embarrass his son in front of his classmates.

Th. admitted to the abuse, telling police that he was ashamed of his son’s poor academic performance at school.

His son’s learning capacity was very poor, Th. said, adding the child had had to take re-examinations for most of his school subjects.

Th. also accused his child of failing to hand over tuition money to his school, which he had been given by his family.

Police will continue to investigate and hope to bring Th. to justice quickly, said Chau Minh Ninh, deputy head of the commune police.

“This is the first time such critical child abuse has taken place in our commune,” he said.