Criminal charges proposed against Ca Mau child abuse couple

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A married couple in custody for torturing a 14-year-old-boy for over a year in the southern province of Ca Mau has been pressed with charges punishable by jail terms of up to 18 years.

Senior lieutenant-colonel Nguyen Truong Ha of Ca Mau Police Department on May 12 said investigators have proposed charges of "abusing others" and "deliberately injuring others" against Huynh Thanh Giang and Ma Ngoc Thom for having tortured Nguyen Hoang Anh, an employee at their shrimp farm in Phu Hiep Hamlet.

The crimes of "abusing others" and "deliberately injuring others" are punishable by jail sentences of up to three years and 15 years respectively by the Penal Code.

The farm's workers, Luu Van Khanh and Lam Ly Huynh, face charges of "abusing others" for having allegedly abused Anh. The two workers failed to report Giang and Thom's illegal acts to police and joined them instead, investigators said.

As it stands, the decision of whether to prosecute the couple lies with the Dam Doi District prosecutors' office.

Before the case was wrapped up and forwarded to prosecutors, Dam Doi police had launched another investigation into allegations that Giang and Thom had tortured Anh because the boy knew about their illegal acts.

Anh was quoted by news website VietNamNet as saying that he was treated well at first when he began working for Giang and Thom in September, 2008.

However, this changed late last year after he saw strangers come to the farm and inject themselves with syringes, the news website reported.

Nguyen Thanh Van, a local resident, who lays mousetraps along the river, said he often found syringes in those that were kept near the shrimp farm, according to VietNamNet.

However, police have dropped all drug smuggling charges against the couple.

Giang was arrested last week after Anh was taken to the Dam Doi District General Hospital with what doctors said was extensive physical damage covering over 66 percent of his body.

Thom was first allowed to remain outside custody during the investigation because her child was younger than three years old, but was arrested on May 9 for interfering with the investigation, Dam Doi District police said.

On May 10, the Ministry of Public Security's criminal investigation agency reported that initial information showed Giang and Thom had tortured Anh at least 30 times during his employment.

Hitting the boy with hammers and oars, pouring hot water on him, pressing him with hot iron, strangling him with rope, and pulling his teeth out with pincers were among tortures inflicted on the boy, investigators found.

When they were exposed last week, the details of torture shocked and angered the public and raised questions about the governance of authorities under whom the abuse happened undetected for such a long time.

Provincial authorities issued a warning to Pham Duc Ly, chairman of Ngoc Chanh Commune, which manages Phu Hiep Hamlet, and Nguyen Thanh Binh, head of the commune police, for failing to detect the abuse.

Truong Anh Ut, head of the hamlet, and Ly Thai Trieu, head of the hamlet's police, also received similar warnings.

According to Ly, the Communist Party unit of the Ngoc Chanh Commune was also considering punishment for involved party members in Phu Hiep.

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