Hanoi officials resettle embattled pagoda's population of orphans, elderly and disabled

By Ha An, Thanh Nien News

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Hanoi officials began relocating orphans and old people from a philanthropic pagoda to a government welfare center on Friday after finding the former suffered loose management and offered substandard healthcare.
Some of Bo De pagoda's nuns and volunteer caretakers wept as they accompanied 19 children and 13 elderly people to the Thuy An Center for the Elderly and Disabled Children in Ba Vi District. 
The move came on the heels of accusations of child trafficking, poor staff oversight and substandard healthcare at the pagoda's improvised orphanage and care center.
Early this month, Bo De was home to 135 people. Some were orphans, others were disabled or elderly. All felt they had no where else to turn.
A staff of 59 homeless people who lived at the pagoda, assisted the nuns in maintaining its facilities and conducting clerical work.
Until recently, the pagoda was best known for having sheltered orphans and abandoned children, including those born with HIV, since 1989.
It's reputation changed with the August 4 arrest of Nguyen Thi Thanh Trang, a formerly homeless single mother who helped manage the pagoda’s orphanage.
Police said Trang sold a child for VND35 million (US$1,650). The buyer, Pham Thi Nguyet, was also arrested but claimed that the 2-year-old boy was her husband’s illegitimate child.
The child died during the recent measles epidemic that swept through the capital.
Concerned donors and volunteers urged the police to compile a list of missing children after coming to suspect the pagoda of having been involved in a large-scale trafficking operation.
Colonel Nguyen Duy Ngoc, deputy chief of Hanoi police, dismissed those rumors last Tuesday, when he announced that most of the children had either been returned to their families, adopted or transferred to other pagodas.
However, he criticized the unregistered orphanage as failing to meet official requirements in terms of space, hygiene, equipment and proper staff training.
All of the pagoda’s beneficiaries are slated to be resettled at five government centers throughout the capital.

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