A 20-year-old youth in Ho Chi Minh City has been found molesting boys as young as eight years old and then blackmailing them into prostitution.
The Tuoi Tre newspaper, which broke the story on Monday, reported Wednesday that Thi Truong Han, the pimp and rapist, and other related people have been summoned by Hoc Mon District police for questioning.
The HCMC Police Department's social crimes inspection division has also assigned officers to investigate the case, the report said.
Tuoi Tre's Monday report said its reporters had discovered Han's services on a pedophilic website for gays, and managed to approach him after acquiring his phone number and nicknames for online chats.
Han, better known as Thuan among the local gay community, claimed that he was the "boss" of a "group" engaged in "recruiting" young boys and "coordinating the time and place" for customers to get their services.
He charged customers VND1 million (US$47.48) for a session of oral sex and VND2 million for anal sex.
The services would be provided at hotels in Hoc Mon and District 12, usually in the afternoons or on Sundays, because "the kids have to go to school in the morning," the report quoted Han as saying.
The young man, who is taking a 12th grade class at District 12's Center for Continuing Education, also claimed that he could find boys satisfying customers' specific requirements within three days of their paying a deposit.
He said he managed several dozen boys, mostly between 12-14 years old, not only to provide their services for customers, but also to meet his own demands.
Han's modus operandi, according to the report, was to befriend the boys through online chats or direct meetings at public places and win their confidence by treating them with meals, gifts and money before sexually abusing them.
He usually hung around at swimming pools, parks and Internet shops to look for potential victims, the report said, adding that he has abused many boys in Dong Thanh and neighboring communes.
After molesting the boys, he forced them into having sex with others by threatening to expose video clips that he had of the molestation and offering them money. The video clips were also kept as insurance in case the boys wanted to act against him, the report said.
One of the boys, 13-year-old N., was quoted as saying Han always "did the things" to him when he was sleeping, or after drugging him with sleeping pills.
N. was one of many boys who were filmed by Han while being molested, Tuoi Tre said, adding that some of the clips were uploaded to the Internet.
Bi, 12, said he met Han at a swimming pool in June last year, and followed him to a park to play and eat. Later, the man told Bi that he would get money if he kissed him.
Now the boy is one of Han's sex workers and is frequently ordered to "serve" him and his customers. This was done with the promise of money or threats if he refused, Bi said.
The report did not specify if threats other than the exposure of compromising videos were used.
Han paid the boys VND500,000 for each time they served customers, but he also charged them 30 percent of the money as solicitation fees.
According to the newspaper, Han used to live in Dong Thanh with his mother and stepfather, but later fled to his grandmother's house in Thoi Tam Thon Commune after the stepfather caught him molesting a boy who lived nearby.
Her voice trembling after being told about her son's abuse, N.'s mother admitted she knew that Han was gay before, and had actually caught him a couple of times "doing wrong things" to her son while he slept.
"I stopped him and scolded him, thinking he would never do it again, ...".
Meanwhile, Bi's parents said they were "shocked" and "outraged" to learn that their son had been forced into having six with gay adults, Tuoi Tre reported. The parents said they were busy working to pay the money they'd borrowed for surgeries to treat the boy's degenerative arthritis.
Parents are not the only ones in Vietnam who are unaware of the risks of sexual abuse among boys.
The law itself also fails to address it.
Speaking to Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Duc Sau, a judge with the HCMC People's Court, said the sexual abuse of boys was a common offence in several countries and some cases have recently been exposed in Vietnam.
But, Vietnamese laws have yet to be amended to address these problems as well as offences related to homosexuals and transgender people, he said.
Under Vietnamese law, men will be charged with rape of minors if they have sex with girls under 13, whether it is consensual or not, but the charge cannot be applied in case a boy is sexually abused by a man, Sau said.
However, the offender can be charged with "indecent acts with minor," which is punishable with a jail term up to 12 years.
Sau said people abusing boys' innocence to satisfy their sexual desires is a serious crime, because it does not only harms children's body and health, but it also traumatizes them and affects their psychological development.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hong, a lecturer at the HCMC University of Law, said it was not correct to handle all sexual offences against boys with charges of "indecent acts with minor," given the "terrible" consequences these have on children.
Moreover, the punishment is quite lax compared to the charge of "child rape" which can be punished with death, she said.
The lecturer said that in the case of Han, it was "necessary" to apply other laws to "strictly" punish his actions, including soliciting prostitution, and "spreading illicit cultural products" for recording and posting video sex clips online.
"Lawmakers need to amend laws by specifying sexual offences by homosexuals to stop the increasing evil," said Ha Hai, a lawyer with the HCMC Bar Association.
The changes should start with the recognition that sex between people of the same sex and homosexual marriage is a fact in the society, he said.
This recognition should provide the basis for lawmakers to make laws dealing specifically with homosexual molestation and prostitution, as well as soliciting homosexual prostitution, he added.
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