A family in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong reportedly refused to permit a forensic autopsy for their son, whom they believe was poisoned by dog thieves.
Pham Dinh Bao Khanh died on November 4 after licking what neighbors and his mother say was a piece of poisoned bait set out by the thieves.
Khanh was only 22-months old.
“He screamed, walked several meters and collapsed,” said Ta Thi Kim Lan, who lives next door.
Lan spoke to Tuoi Tre reporters on the day of the tragedy at around 8 p.m.
She recalled first spotting a round glob attached to a rolled-up plastic bag in her front yard while sweeping her porch that afternoon.
“I had never seen anything like that. I thought it was a kind of religious offering someone had tossed on the ground, but later I learned it was dog bait.
“If I had put it away or burned it, Khanh would not have died.”
Pham Thi Thoa, the boy's 25-year-old mother, said she had given Khanh a lollipop at a neighbor’s birthday party earlier that night, and he must have thought the dog bait was the same thing.
Thoa said she left the boy to play outdoors with other kids and went back into her house.
“I heard my son scream. His body went into shock and his mouth just kept opening,” she told Tuoi Tre.
Pham Dinh Bao Khanh, 22-months, in his altar photo. The boy died after licking an item the family believes to have been a poisoned piece of bait set out by dog thieves. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
She and a group of neighbors took the boy from one hospital to another, but he died soon afterward.
Thoa also said she had never seen the thing that Khanh had licked before he died, “but it looked like a lollipop.”
After Khanh died, Thoa said neighbors showed her several pieces of dog bait they'd picked up around the neighborhood, and it was exactly the same as the item that killed her son.
Nguyen Van Tuynh, a local man, said dogs are stolen regularly in the area, especially from houses along the main road.
“The thieves throw the bait, which looks like candy. We pick them up every once in a while and burn them.”
Commune Police Chief Pham Thanh Hoa confirmed that would-be dog thieves left poisoned bait out in the area, but said they cannot link the bait to the boy's death without proper testing.
Hoa said the police seized the bait at the scene and requested permission to conduct a forensic autopsy, but the family refused.
“Since we cannot identify the toxin inside the boy, it’s very hard to say whether he was killed by dog bait or not.”
Doctor Huynh Van Nam, who provided emergency aid to Khanh at Cu Jut District General Hospital, said the boy arrived after he'd stopped breathing and his heart beat had become irregular.
“The poisoning was very severe. We have never seen anything like this before,” Nam said.
He said the boy was unable to vomit by himself and doctors had to pump his stomach.
Then they forwarded the boy to Dak Lak General Hospital but the boy was barely clinging to life, Nam said.
He also said that the doctors don't know for sure that if dog bait killed the boy.