Thieves prey on foreigners in Nha Trang

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Gap between haves and have-nots may be cause of more crimes at tourist destinations

Kim Rooney (R) says she was attacked by three robbers who snatched her bag which had no money and returned to beat her while she was walking on Nha Trang Town's Tran Phu Street.

Kim Rooney's two-month tour along the Vietnamese coast was spoiled in the coastal resort town of Nha Trang when she was mugged and attacked by three thieves.

At around 4 a.m. on November 20, she was walking down Nha Trang's main beach drag on Tran Phu Street when three women snatched her bag and ran away.

However, there was no money in the bag and the three quickly returned and attacked Rooney.

To Dang Thanh Lien, a receptionist at Rooney's hotel, said robberies targeting foreign tourists in the coastal town had increased recently.

He said he had taken nine foreigners to the police station to report robberies in November alone. "I always advise them not to take valuables when they go out," he said.

Such robberies prompted the Khanh Hoa Province People's Committee, the local government, to hold a meeting on November 18 to discuss security measures.

Major Tran Van Minh, chief of Nha Trang's Huong Xuan Ward police, said most thieves were from out of town and they often rode motorbikes along the coastal street of Tran Phu looking for prey.

"Not only foreigners, many local tourists have also been their victims. They don't let any robbery opportunities slip by," he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Van Thao, a spokesman of the Nha Trang police force, said there were no official statistics on robberies and thefts involving foreign tourists.

However, he said police had recorded some cases in which foreigners deceitfully reported robberies to receive insurance reimbursements.

Common problem


  • November 20: An Irish tourist lost her bag to three robbers when walking on Tran Phu Street.
  • November 16: Two foreign tourists at Hon Tam Sun & Sea Hotel were robbed of their bags when walking on Tran Phu Street.
  • November 10: Tow robbery cases happened on a beach near the Lammy and Michelia hotels.
  • November 6: Two foreign tourists staying at the Michelia Hotel lost their bags which were left ashore as they swam in the ocean near the hotel.
  • November 3: Two foreign tourists staying at the Starlet Hotel were robbed of their bags near the Tram Huong Tower.

Expats living in the popular resort town say the issue is a common problem everywhere, not only in Nha Trang. They urge tourists to be cautious.

"Expats and tourists need to be vigilant for themselves anywhere in the world. Nha Trang is no different," Robert, an Australian expat who has lived in Vietnam for 23 years, told Thanh Nien Weekly.

"As we have a certain percentage of low-educated and disadvantaged people who likely see others as opulent or over-endowed in fineries, foreigners visiting any land must not flaunt excessive jewelry," Robert said, declining to reveal his last name. "One shouldn't put themselves in harm's way. One shouldn't rub salt in the poverty wounds of others."

For Robert, Nha Trang is still a safe place for an expat to live. "I find the police here very vigilant and courteous to all people. I have found far worse street cowboy activity in the likes of Jakarta than in Vietnam," he wrote to Thanh Nien Weekly in an email.

He said Nha Trang police had been "excellent" on the rare occasions in which he had been in contact with them. "They do their job efficiently and with courtesy to locals and foreigners alike as far as I see," he said.

Robert argued that the increasing robberies are a common accompaniment of developing tourism.

"Nha Trang is not getting worse, only the massive growth in tourist numbers here must lead numerically to more tourist complaints," he said.

Richard McKenzie, an American expat, said he had rarely heard of any robberies during his eight years in Nha Trang.

But he had heard two stories third-hand. "In one case two Russian women staying at the Michelia [Hotel] had their handbag stolen while sitting at the beach. A man grabbed the bag and ran up Tran Phu Street and jumped on a waiting motorbike and escaped," he told Thanh Nien Weekly.

"The second story I heard also involved Russian women. Four men surrounded two women and demanded their money. They also escaped. Nobody intervened to help," he said.  "There is a feeling that Russian tourists are targeted because they are believed to carry large sums of money."

However, McKenzie said he and his wife are more vigilant these days.


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"In the past month, my wife has insisted that we lock the door of our bedroom so that if a burglar enters the house, they cannot get into our room. She has heard stories of people being stabbed and killed when they woke up when a burglar was in their room," McKenzie said.

"As times get harder and prices get higher there is usually an increase in crime. I have accepted her concern and lock our doors."

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