A senior official at a shelter in the southern province of Dong Nai has denied accusations from four children who claim they were seriously abused.
The kids were found wandering the streets of Ho Chi Minh City earlier this week.
"I was really shocked when they said my husband and I had seriously assaulted them," Le Thi Thanh Lan, deputy director of the shelter, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper on Wednesday (November 10).
"We consider them our own children and we were in the process of adopting [one of them]. We always bring them with us on vacations or when we go out to eat," she said. "I have never abused them with clubs and chains as they claim. I want the police to investigate [these accusations]."
Lan's response came after four children, aged four to 13, escaped from the shelter and took a bus to Ho Chi Minh City where local residents brought them to the police.
They were later sent to the HCMC Social Assistance Center where the children accused the facility's staff of beatings and torture.
"When I soiled my pants, I was dunked in a water tank by Lan. She also tied me to a toilet," four-year-old Diep Hieu Trung said.
Six-year-old Diep Tuan Khoa said he fled from the Dong Nai shelter because Lan and her husband, Thanh, beat him and other children.
Nguyen Van Be Hai, 13, is the eldest among the four children. He claimed the couple's abuse prompted their daring escape. They fled the facility on Sunday night (November 7) while Lan and her husband were asleep.
"Five of us climbed the fence to flee," Hai said. "[Five-year-old Le Gia] Huy slipped and fell but he continued running. One of us dropped behind and got caught. We kept on running. Some people gave us money and took us to HCMC by bus. In HCMC, passersby saw and took us to the police."
The child who fell behind, 14- year-old Nguyen Van Quyet, said Hai convinced the others to escape from the shelter. However, he didn't confirm they had been tortured by the shelter staff.
"Thanh didn't [abuse] us. Lan has verbally abused and beat us when we failed to clean the house," he said.
Kids say the darnedest things
On November 10, the Youth Union branch in Dong Nai Province issued a decision to suspend Lan for one month pending an investigation into the children's claims.
Le Thi My Phuong, director of the Dong Nai Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said the shelter has played an important role in protecting and taking care of the orphans and abandoned children.
However, she said the organization planned to conduct a full investigation of the children' claims.
Bui Xuan Thong, Secretary of the local Youth Union, said he could not comment yet on whether or not the shelter staff abused the children because authorities concerned have not yet interviewed them.
Still, Thong remained suspicious about the claims.
One of the children who made the daring escape claimed that his arm had been broken by the shelter's abusive overseers.
But Thong said he doubted that a small child with a broken arm could have managed to scale the shelter's two-meter fence.
Meanwhile, Dr. Nguyen Bao Tuong of the HCMC Children Hospital No. 1 said the hospital admitted Khoa and Huy on Monday with multiple injuries. He said the doctors have been unable to determine whether or not those injuries were caused by physical abuse.