Ho Van Thanh (L) and Ho Van Cong make final statements to a panel of judges prior to the verdict handed down in an appeals trial on Thursday. Photo: Nguyen Phuc
The Supreme People’s Court upheld Thursday the death sentences handed down to two men for beating five rare wood seekers to death in a forest in central Vietnam last year.
The victims were being held hostage for ransom meant to cover gambling debts.
A Laotian national, Ho Van Nguyen, 25, will stand a separate trial in Laos for his alleged role in the brutal crime.
Ho Van Cong, 38, and Ho Van Thanh, 40, were convicted of four felony charges: murder, robbery, abduction, and the illegal use of military-grade weapon.
The duo were sentenced to death by a court in the north-central province of Quang Tri on May 30.
They were also ordered to pay VND880 million (US$41,200) in compensation to the victims’ families plus VND600,000 ($28), every month, to each of the victims' children until they reach 18 years old.
Cong and Thanh are both from Huong Hoa District, Quang Tri Province.
According to the indictment, in March of 2013, Thanh lost a large sum of money and his father-in-law’s motorbike while gambling. When he approached Cong to borrow money to get the bike back, his friend enlisted him in a scheme to kidnap poachers and hold them for ransom.
They sought help from Nguyen in Sepon District, Laos, which borders Huong Hoa District, because he had a rifle.
On March 21 they headed into a forest in Huong Hoa.
The next day they found and abducted three poachers of rare fragrant wood (Calambac), who managed to untie themselves and escape while the trio rifled through their tent.
Around noon on March 23, the trio came upon the camp of seven poachers.
They overpowered the hunters with the rifle, and ordered one to tie up the rest.
After gathering up and searching their belongings, they demanded money.
As they had none, Hoang Van Ha, one of the seven hostages, begged his captors to let him go home and get money.
The kidnappers agreed and demanded VND120 million ($5,600) for each hostage; they gave Ha three days to return.
Early the next morning they escorted the hunters some 20 meters from their tent and beat them to death one by one. The bodies were buried in a hole Thanh had dug the previous night.
Do Van Hien, one of the six hostages, managed to run away during the brutal killing.
All of the killers were arrested in early April.
Calambac is a dark resinous heartwood that forms in agar wood trees when they become infected with a type of mold.
The wood fetches premium prices because it is believed to bring good luck and have the capacity to cure some otherwise incurable diseases.