In Vietnam, nearly 70 confess to murder of dog theft suspects after trial

By Nguyen Phuc, Thanh Nien News

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Nearly 100 people objected and refused to leave the court after a trial in the north-central province of Quang Tri on March 28 found ten people guilty of killing two dog theft suspects.
After ten people were convicted of killing two dog theft suspects in the north-central province of Quang Tri last month, another 68 people confessed to the same crime, baffling local authorities.
Gio Thanh Commune police told Thanh Nien on Tuesday that they had received confession letters from residents in Nhi Trung Hamlet, and had forwarded them to their superiors who said they were reviewing the “unprecedented” case.
On March 28, the Quang Tri People’s Court gave jail terms of two-three years to six people and suspended sentences of two years to four others for beating two men suspected of stealing dogs to death in 2012.
The defendants, all Nhi Trung Hamlet residents, were part of a mob beating – a kind of vigilante justice that people in many places of Vietnam have taken against dog thefts in recent years, resulting in many deaths.
After the trial, nearly 100 villagers who attended the hearing refused to leave in a show of protesting against the verdict they criticized as being “too harsh.”
Nguyen Dang Hai, vice chief of Nhi Trung’s Party Unit, told Thanh Nien that local people had submitted their confessions after lots of consideration.
He said they want the case to be reviewed so that the 10 defendants will not have to be punished for a crime committed by the whole village.
Speaking to Thanh Nien, some villagers who are as old as over 80 claimed that they had slapped the dog thefts’ faces, while others claimed to have hit their legs with clubs.
They said the beating was their response to repeated dog thefts in their neighborhood.
In the meantime, Le Quang Cong, chief of Quang Tri Police Department’s social crime division, said on Tuesday that so far the letters had yet to reach his division. 
However, since such a mass confession is “unprecedented,” they will have to review the law to come up with a solution, he said.
The official also said that it will “definitely” not be an easy case to handle, and police will have to explain the laws to local people so they can understand them better.
According to the indictment issued by the Quang Tri People’s Procuracy – the local prosecutor's office, Tran Van Tien, 24, Nguyen Dang Truong, 28, Tran Van Trung, 26, and Nguyen Thanh Khang, 23, had hatched a plan to catch the culprits behind an increasingly rampant series of dog thefts in the area..
 Early on the morning of August 29, 2012, they were waiting at the hamlet’s entrance when they saw two strangers who were later identified as Nguyen Dang Cuong, 32, and Nguyen Xuan Trieu, 42, enter the hamlet on a motorbike.
They chased the duo while shouting to alarm local residents who then rushed to the site, with or without clubs.
Although they tried to fight back with their flashlights and by throwing chili powder at their chasers, Cuong and Tri could not escape.
They were beaten unconsciousness on the spot and succumbed to serious injuries later at a local hospital after being brought there by police.
Prosecutors said Tien, Truong, Trung and Khang, together with Nguyen Trung Ha, 19, Nguyen Dang Huan, 60, and Nguyen Dang Son, 39, caused the death of Cuong, while Trieu was killed by Nguyen Dang Loi, 41, Nguyen Dang Quy, 41, and Nguyen Thanh Binh, 58.
They were all charged with “deliberately injuring others.”
Dog theft is common in Vietnam, with the dogs sold for VND60,000-120,000 (US$3-6) per kilogram to restaurants or slaughterhouses for food.
Many people have turned to vigilante justice to deal with dog thefts, beating up and badly injuring and even killing dog thieves or suspects. They believe that fines are not enough and stealing dogs should be considered a serious criminal offense.
There have been many deaths in confrontations between dog thieves and owners in Vietnam, especially in northern and central regions, including Hanoi.

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