A two-week investigation prompted by alleged child trafficking at a local philanthropic pagoda discovered loose management and substandard healthcare, Hanoi police said Tuesday.
Colonel Nguyen Duy Ngoc, the capital's deputy chief of police said they don't have enough evidence to accuse Bo De pagoda’s chief nun Thich Dam Lan of being involved in child trafficking, but she has done a poor job of running the orphanage.
Bo De has drawn official attention since the August 4 arrest of Nguyen Thi Thanh Trang, a single mother who helped manage the day to day operations.
Police said Trang sold a child for VND35 million (US$1,650). The buyer, Pham Thi Nguyet, was also arrested but claimed that the 2-year-old boy was her husband's illegitimate child.
The child died during the recent measles epidemic that swept through the city.
Colonel Ngoc said police first noticed more than ten children missing from the pagoda’s admission books. A further investigation revealed that most of them have either been returned to their families, adopted or transferred to other pagodas.
Philanthropists urged the police to track down the missing children after coming to suspect the pagoda of having been involved in a large-scale trafficking operation.
Ngoc said police are keeping the investigation open since they've yet to find a 4-year-old boy who was included on the list. He was reportedly taken away from the pagoda by his mother, who lived in the pagoda's homeless shelter.
He said the pagoda should have kept the authorities better updated, instead of waiting for an investigation to begin.
The officer also said the Bo De’s orphanage has not been officially registered and does not meet the official requirements in terms of space, hygiene, equipment and trained staff for an official shelter.
“By admitting children and other people without official approval and without guaranteeing proper services, the pagoda has not operated by the rules.”
Thich Dam Lan, chief nun at Bo De pagoda in Hanoi, with a baby once entrusted to its orphanage.
For example, the pagoda hosts many sick and disabled children and old people but doesn't have a staff trained to take care of them.
None of the children under six have been sent to school as required by law, the officer said.
Another 13 children, aged between 6 and 16, weren't sent to school, mostly due to poor health.
Ngoc said the pagoda also failed to register the birth certificates for 80 out of 92 children (aged 16 and under) under its care.
Many of the children are either orphans or were abandoned by their parents and some are HIV-positive.
The pagoda also cares for 34 disabled adults and elderly people, as well as nine homeless adults who asked to stay and help around in return for shelter.
Trang, the child trafficking suspect, belonged to that unofficial support staff.
After attention was thrown on the pagoda, a Phu Nu (Woman) newspaper exposé claimed its managers often sold donations of food, clothes and books for cash.