Defense ministry orders report on gruesome photographs of rare monkeys

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The Ministry of Defense has asked an army unit in the Central Highlands to report its findings on the capture, torture and killing of endangered monkeys in Gia Lai Province.

A soldier allegedly involved in the case posted photographs of the monkeys being tortured and dismembered on his Facebook page.

Nguyen Thanh Tuan, chief of the ministry's Propaganda and Training Department, was cited in a VnExpress report on Friday as saying Army Corps No 3, which is based in the Central Highlands province, was still in charge of "directly" handling the case "in accordance with military's regulations and laws."

The news website quoted an unnamed military official as saying under military regulations, the highest punishment that Nguyen Van Quang, 20, who posted the photos on his Facebook page, and other involved soldiers could face is dismissal from service.

The corps' inspectorate is expected to complete its investigation of the case on Sunday, Colonel Mac Van Tuan, chief of the Army Corps 3's propaganda and training office, told the news website.

He said it was unlikely that the soldiers had poached the monkeys because they were not equipped with weapons, adding that they probably bought the animals from other people.

"It is unfortunate, but the Army Corps will strictly handle the case and punish involved people in accordance with laws," Tuan said.

Meanwhile, Tuoi Tre Saturday quoted Major-General Hoang Kien, director of the management board of the border patrol route project, where the suspected soldiers' unit is working, as saying that the Army Corps has ordered the whole unit to come back to the base for reviewing the case.

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Kien said when the project was started nearly ten years ago, authorities had issued many instructions for soldiers and officials about not logging trees and poaching wildlife, given that the route runs through many national parks and primeval forests.

"It is the first ever case ["¦] It is a pity and should be criticized; those units which work on the project need to improve the awareness of soldiers and officials," he said.

On July 16, Quang uploaded 12 photos showing himself and other young men, some in uniform, torturing two monkeys, one of which was apparently pregnant.

They were seen putting cigarettes in the mouth of a monkey, tying another one with rope, and dunking one of them in boiling water to get rid of its fur and disembowel it.

In some other photos, the men also posed with the head and skulls of the animals which were later identified by scientists as the "critically endangered" gray-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix cinerea).

The photos soon evoked outrage from netizens and grabbed headlines, prompting related agencies to step in and summon the soldiers for questioning.

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