New child-beating case sparks alarm in VIetnam

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On Valentine's Day, police arrested a man for allegedly beating and torturing his 12-year-old adopted daughter for two years in the central province of Quang Ngai.

The young girl Nguyen Thuc Phi had been hit so savagely that her eyes were swollen shut, leaving the rest of her face puffy and read.

And that is just the beginning.

Her adoptive father Nguyen Mui stands now accused of whipping her with electric wire, locking her in the chicken coop, and tying her naked to a pole outside several times since 2010.

Mui, 59, of Hanh Trung Commune, Nghia Hanh District, will be investigated for mistreatment charges under Article 110 of the Penal Code, which attracts jail terms between one to three years.

The case made headlines after a beating on the evening of February 10, when several neighbors failed to persuade Mui and his 50-year-old wife Doan Thi Hong Yen to open the door when they heard a commotion. The neighbors then called the police to rescue Phi.

Phi was admitted to hospital the following afternoon with a bruised and swollen face and in a panic. Doctors said her eyes were severely injured to the point at which she couldn't open them, her lips were bleeding and there were bruises all over her body.

Mui told the police that in the February 10 incident he had only slapped the girl twice in the face after suspecting that she stole VND500,000 (US$24) from his wardrobe.

He said the girl admitted to taking VND20,000 (around $1). She then ran away and slipped, which caused the bruises on her face, he said.

But many neighbors said the couple had locked the girl inside and beat her with an electric wire.

Preliminary investigations over the past two days found that Mui had beaten the girl with hands and canes many times over the last two years, police said.

She had also been put in the chicken coop, and tied to a house pillar with no clothes on, according to initial police reports.

Phi was daughter of a local woman who left the province after giving birth. She has been staying with the couple for three years but Mui only registered an official adoption in May last year.

According to Mui's neighbors, Mui and his wife make Phi get up at 4 a.m. every day to wash dishes, clean, cook and serve customers at their noodle shop.

Phi was brutally beaten every time she got up a bit late, the neighbors said.

Yen is still being investigated for her involvement in the beatings.

Not alone

An estimated 3,000-4,000 cases of violence against children were reported each year between 2008 and 2010, Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen said at a conference on Wednesday (February 15).

Of those cases, around 100 resulted in death, according to the minister.

Meanwhile, up to 2,260 cases of sexual abuse against children were reported across the country over the three-year period.

According to Ngo Thi Minh, deputy chief of the National Assembly's Culture, Education, Youth and Children Committee, local authorities and child protection organizations have been somewhat negligent in the prevention of violence against children.

She said many local officers were neglective of their duty in detecting and punishing those who use violence against children.

For instance, in Mui's case, his neighbors said they called commune authorities and police on the night of February 10 when Phi was locked up and beaten in the house, but police only forced Mui to take Phi to hospital the following day.

Vo Thi Tam, a neighbor, said when she called Nghia Hanh District police, they told her to call Hanh Trung Commune police.

Meanwhile, Hanh Trung Commune authorities did not do anything as they said Mui's house was locked, Tam recalled.

It was only after "one day of investigations" that police arrested the suspect.

Local child protection organizations also said they did not know anything about the beatings over the two-year period.

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