A foreign tourist cries in Ho Chi Minh City on March 11 after two robbers snatch her bag, with all her money and passport inside. Photo: Do Ngoc/Nguoi Lao Dong
Police in Ho Chi Minh City are hunting for two local men who snatched a bag from a foreign tourist on a downtown street in yet another blatant street robbery that many warn will erode the appeal of Vietnam as a destination.
The woman reportedly lost her handbag, which contained her passport and all of her money, on Luong Huu Khanh Street in District 1 on Friday afternoon. She and a friend were reading a map while walking along the street, only a few minutes from the heart of the famous backpackers' area.
Two men approached on a motorbike, grasped her bag and run.
A local woman told Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper that the victim was so scared she passed out.
“She couldn't stop crying. She said her money, her passport and everything were gone.”
Her friend said they stayed at a friend’s in the city and were exploring the city.
They reported the case to local police right after the incident.
HCMC's Party secretary Dinh La Thang at a meeting Monday ordered representatives from the city police and tourism authorities to look for the tourists and apologize to them.
The order was made after photos of the helpless tourist crying on the street, clearly devastated, went viral on the Internet.
Nguyen Van My, director of a travel company in the city, said in a letter to Thanh Nien that repeated robberies against tourists have rendered all efforts to promote Vietnam as a friendly country "meaningless."
My said the new photos came just like "a storm that will destroy all the beautiful things and the hidden charm that Vietnam has to offer."
Earliest media reports said the two tourists were from Europe, but Zing News cited police as saying that the victim is from Egypt.
Vietnam has been making various efforts to promote its tourism. The country last year offered 15-day visa waivers to tourists from many Asian and European countries.
Foreign arrivals to the country increased 16 percent in the first two months, compared to the same period last year.
Ho Chi Minh City, one of the country's top destinations, is planning to set up a special police unit to
protect tourists given the rise in crime and constant complaints from diplomatic agencies about the safety of their citizens.
The city's police last year worked on more than 130 robbery and snatch-and-run cases involving foreign tourists. Street crime remains a popular topic on global travel forums about the city.