A city searches for a killer and answer

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Following a gruesome double-murder, HCMC tries to come to grips with senseless violence

Police investigate a stretch of Cong Quynh Street in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 where two men were stabbed to death following a traffic dispute on August 6

At around 7 p.m. last Friday (August 6), Ho Chi Minh City's bustling downtown district was rocked by a double-murder that started with a near-miss on motorbikes.

An anonymous police source said it was this year's first road-rage inspired killing in District 1. A call to the District 1 police station regarding the number of homicides this year did not prove fruitful. Annual homicide statistics for the city could not be obtained as of press time.

When it was all over, two men lay dead on the sidewalk and a third was left in critical condition. Early reports indicated that they were killed by a single assailant wielding a pair of knives.

Nguyen Minh Duc, 27 died from five stab wounds; Nguyen Chi Dung, 26, was felled by just two.

Hoang Dinh Hung, also 27, survived his three wounds.

The friends had been out drinking that night, according to the local news website VnExpress.

In an interview with Thanh Nien Weekly, a man who said he witnessed the events and has agreed to testify against the unidentified perpetrator described the grizzly crime.

As of press time, the killer and his accomplice remain at large.

Tai, a middle-aged security guard who works at a Cong Quynh office building said that Duc, Dung and Hung stopped in front of his building on the rainy night on a pair of Honda SH motorbikes. They began to argue with another two men who were riding a Honda Wave, he said.

Tai said the man later identified as Hung took off his belt and began whipping the driver of the Honda Wave. Duc and Dung joined in, smashing the short, fat victim with their helmets some ten times.

"The beaten man took out a knife and stabbed the trio," he said. "Passers-by didn't know they had been stabbed at first, but I saw the trio go down like falling banana trees."

Tai said the first victim tried to crawl away but collapsed within seconds. The second victim tried to sit down and cover the wounds that would ultimately take his life. The third man collapsed.

The security guard did not realize the men had been stabbed until he saw the knife glittering in the stout assailant's hand. "I don't know if this guy was an actual hit man," Tai said. "But he wielded the knife like a professional."

Tai estimates that the whole thing took ten minutes. "Many people refused to be witnesses," he said. "I think most of them refused because they are afraid that having to report the case to the police will take time and affect their business."

Tai said he feels an obligation to the slain men.

"I told the police everything because I wanted the souls of the dead to rest in peace."

Crisis of values

The incident sent a shockwave through the city.

Many are still trying to come to terms with how such violence could result from something that so many walk away from on a daily basis. Is this incident a gruesome outlier or it is indicative of a new era of senseless violence?

Dr. Dinh Phuong Duy, chairman of the HCMC Psychology Association, said there has been "instability" of ethics and values in a fast-changing society.

"Many people focus too much on making money for a stable life rather than cultivating internal values," Duy said.

"Ethical values now occupy a precarious position in our society. This sort of violence may result from a variety of causes. It typically occurs in people acting on instinctively rather than consciously. Violence may erupt as a defensive response to perceived social threats, feelings of fragility and insecurity amid our rapidly developing society."

Nguyen Thi Tam, Director of Hon Viet (Vietnam Insight) Applied Psychology Company in HCMC, said human nature is aggressive and materialistic and that some of those qualities can be cultivated by the modern environment.

"Those [violent] factors are abundant in online games and movies and will be recorded by your mind for preparation of future violence to be acted out in the real world," she said.

"I was terrified to see such brutal human behavior among human beings. A traffic dispute could force someone to chase and attack another person. And a man who carried a pair of knives was prepared to kill several people. It clearly shows that we are witnessing a serious crisis in values."

Tam further advised the media not to simply report about such cases but to thoroughly investigate the lives of the people involved to find out the root cause of the problem.

Police are still searching for the two perpetrators.


- June 26: Le Dinh Anh, a karate expert, seriously injured 50-year-old Nguyen Tien Hung and his 22-yearold daughter after a minor motorbike collision on Le Trong Tan Street in Hanoi.

- June 5: 30-year-old Nguyen Ke Giao was stabbed to death by Nguyen Duc Son after a motorbike collision on Bui Xuong Trach Street in Hanoi.

- June 3: A motorbike rider was stabbed and seriously wounded by another man following a minor traffic accident on Hoang Minh Giam Street in HCMC's Go Vap District. The victim had reportedly instigated the fight.

- May 9: A man, identified only as N., stabbed an innocent bystander to death after a motorbike accident with a woman in Can Tho City in the Mekong Delta. The victim allegedly tried to stop N. from fleeing the scene.

- January 30: A man was stabbed to death by another motorist after their motorbikes collided on Kha Van Can Street in HCMC's Thu Duc District.

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