Couple jailed for robbing foreign tourists in Vietnam metro

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A couple was sentenced to a total of four years in jail on Wednesday for robbing a Japanese tourist in Ho Chi Minh City, as travel agencies warn robberies targeting foreign tourists are on the rise.

The HCMC People's Court handed out a three year sentence to Nguyen Van Trung and and a one year sentence to Le Thi Hong Linh, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

According to the indictment, on May 15 this year Trung, 32, drove a motorbike with his girlfriend, 28-year-old Linh in the city's downtown area in District 1, where they found Daisuke Magai, a Japanese tourist, walking on a sidewalk.

Linh posed as a prostitute offering her services to Magai. When he was distracted, she snatched his wallet, which had VND7.5 million (US$356), as well as a mobile phone, and ran away to Trung, who was waiting afar on the bike. 

But she was chased and caught by the tourist and two members of the district's militia who were on their patrol.

The couple were officially placed in detention later, the Tuoi Tre report said.

It quoted the board of judges as saying that the couple's crime had affected social order and made foreign tourists feel insecure when visiting Vietnam. 

Rampant robberies

A Thoi bao Kinh Te Sai Gon newswire report Wednesday said robberies targeting foreign tourists have been increasing of late in HCMC, worrying local travel companies.

It cited the director general of an international travel firm, who wished to stay unnamed, as saying that between September 15 and October 1, his customers had been robbed nine times.

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The robberies took place at destinations frequented by foreign tourists, like Dong Khoi Street, Me Linh Point and Ben Thanh Market, he said. Robbers usually ride in pairs on a motorbike to snatch handbags or properties like cameras that tourists hold in their hands.

In some cases tourists fell and were injured, he added.

A representative of the Huong Sen Hotel on Dong Khoi Street also reported that four robberies had happened in front of the hotel recently.

"Previously not so many tourists were robbed, but in recent months the number of robberies has increased, making us worried about our customers' safety as well as the destinations' image," he said.

According to the director general, he has sent a letter to the city's tourism department, asking it to speed up measures to protect tourists.

It was estimated that HCMC has attracted some 3.5 million international arrivals this year, an increase of 12.9 percent over last year. The city's has earned tourism revenues of some VND49 trillion ($2.3 billion), a 19.5 percent year on year increase.

The city expects to welcome some 3.78 million arrivals next year, the newswire reported.

A year-end report by the city's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism showed that the local tourism, in fact, has yet to make much progress.

The effectiveness of safety measures for tourists like the stopping of scam taxis and harassing peddlers is yet to meet expectations, the Thoi bao Kinh Te Sai Gon said.

Previously, in a letter sent to tourism agencies, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also warned that despite the high growth of international arrivals, tourists still complained about an insecure tourism environment in several provinces and cities.

It asked local agencies to strengthen measures to improve their tourism environment and ensure safety for tourists.

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