A group of four men, including a notorious gangster, allegedly assaulted a member of the local volunteer anti-crime task force in the southern province of Binh Duong on June 27.
The attack has left vigilantes and public in fear.
Four masked men stormed into the house of Nguyen Tang Tien of An Binh Ward's Anti-crime Group in Di An Town, and stabbed him repeatedly with scimitars.
Tien, a xe om (motorbike taxi) driver, is an active member of the local voluntary anti-crime club, mostly formed by xe om drivers in An Binh Ward.
His wife found Tien grievously injured, lying in a pool of blood with three deep stab wounds on his arms, legs and shoulders. He is now recovering after undergoing surgery to reattach broken tendons.
Tien told the police that during the struggle at his home, he recognized Vu Van Tuan, a notorious local ringleader, among the four assaulters.
Just two days earlier, the anti-crime group had turned in six members of Tuan's group, who were suspected of having stolen motorbikes, to the police. The assault on Tien is believed to be Tuan's revenge.
Tuan's gang members were arrested after the anti-crime group found tens of motorbike plates, driving licenses and ID cards exhibits of the gang's exploits and a device used to break bike locks, at their rented apartment in An Binh Ward.
The local police released the suspects hours of the arrest. Tien said the ringleader, Tuan, paid him a visit after his gang members were released, threatening to take revenge.
Meanwhile, one day before Tien's assault, a group of residents in An Binh Ward wrote to the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper saying they were worried about the release of the criminals.
Luong Duc Tuy, a local resident, said the six gangsters had been roaming the streets with scimitars, looking for the xe om drivers, after being released.
"Luckily, we informed local authorities before the rogues could do anything," he said.
The locals were planning to petition local police and authorities, asking for measures to protect xe om drivers from possible revenge. But before any action could be taken, Tuan and his group attacked Tien.
Volunteers of the anti-crime group said they were concerned that attacks like those on Tien could intensify and become more frequent unless the police took strict action.
Tran Hoang Anh of Phu Hoa District's anti-crime club in Thu Dau Mot Town has helped bust dozens of frauds, robberies and street crimes.
Anh said that until now, he had not been afraid of putting himself in danger. "I had always believed that whistleblowers like us were protected by laws and the public. However, I am disappointed by the lack of action following Tien's assault," he said.
"The criminals are challenging our laws," he said.
Volunteers gathered around Tien at the hospital said it was not the first time that gang members had taken revenge on the vigilantes.
Last March, Nguyen Hoang Thien of Binh Hoa Ward's anti-crime group narrowly escaped death after a motorbike thief stabbed him in the stomach. In another case, Nguyen Thanh Hai of Phu Hoa Ward's anti-crime club was repeatedly stabbed in the back.
Tien's comrades said Tuan had threatened them too. "He said that none of his gang members in Binh Duong, neighboring Dong Nai Province, and Ho Chi Minh City would ever be jailed because he could bail them out in a jiffy," the volunteers said.
On Tuesday (June 28), police in Di An Town detained Tuan to interrogate him in the assault case.
Police from the Ministry of Public Security have promised to chip in. Major-general Do Kim Tuyen, chief of the ministry's Criminal Police Department, said, "I have assigned the southern criminal police department to help Binh Duong police investigate this crime," he said.
"Strict punishment will be meted out to criminals causing social disorder."
Meanwhile, Di An Town's police said Tuan denied all accusations against him.
The Binh Duong Police Department has ordered Di An Town's police to wrap up investigations soon and ensure that everything is done according to law. The move came following rumors that Tuan and his gang were being shielded by Di An police.
Doctors at Thu Duc District Hospital said it will take at least 3-6 months for Tien to recover fully, and even then, he may not be able to walk properly. The hospital has decided to exempt all treatment fees for him.
Lying on a hospital bed with bandages around his limbs and an oxygen mask on his face, Tien said, "I thank everyone for supporting me and my family. Once I have recovered, I will keep fighting against the criminals to protect people in my town."