Torturers get 23 years

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Infamous Ca Mau couple receive 23-year sentence each for the torture of their 14-year-old employee.

Thousands of people attended the June 29th sentencing of a Ca Mau husband and wife who were found guilty of "deliberately injuring" and "torturing" a 14-year-old boy for over a year.

Huynh Thanh Giang, 30, and his wife Ma Ngoc Thom, 33, were sentenced to 23 years each and ordered to pay Nguyen Hoang Anh VND50 million (US$2,630) for mental and physical damages.

Luu Van Khanh, Giang's nephew, and Lam Ly Quynh, an employee of the couple's farm, were sentenced to one and half years in prison each for the same charges.

At the hearing held by Ca Mau People's Court, Giang and Thom, who run a shrimp farm in the province's Dam Doi District, where Anh worked since September, 2008, denied allegations made by Anh and Ca Mau investigators, saying that they confessed because they were in a weakened state of mind when telling police about their acts previously.

Thom, who fainted twice during the trial, said she "only" beat the boy four times with a hot iron, a stick and a chair, while her husband said he tied Anh up under the sun for "just" a few minutes and beat him till one of his teeth fell out "accidentally."

Other injuries were caused by Anh himself when he fell over or was careless, Giang said. He said he beat Anh because he was lazy, insolent and pinched their child.

Quynh and Khanh, meanwhile, said they took part in the abuse as ordered by Giang and Thom.

Anh, who was rescued from the farm in Ngoc Chanh Commune in May following local people's testimonies, is now under the care of Ca Mau Social Welfare Center. An told the court that the couple had beaten him on numerous occasions during his employment.

The couple regularly injured his chest, mouth, head, legs and groin with hot water, pincers, hot coals, hammers and sticks among other things, he said.

Thom beat him with bricks and slashed him with razors before pouring formol a kind of disinfectant on his injuries, the boy said.

While Thom ordered him to drink salty and soapy water, and eat gloves, rags and dog hair, Giang asked him to drink his own urine, Anh said.

"The boss [Giang] together with Khanh and Quynh tied me up under the sun and beat me many times.

At the hearing, examinations showed that extensive physical damage covered over 66 percent of the boy's body.

A photo taken in May showed Nguyen Hoang Anh with multiple injuries

The couple was cruel to torture the boy in such a way and on so many occasions, presiding judge Tran Trong Nhan said, labeling Giang and Thom inhumane for not sending Anh to hospital to treat his injuries.

Meanwhile, many people who attended the trial said Giang and Thom deserved heavier punishments for what they had done.

"The couple thought Hoang Anh as something less than an animal, as many people don't dare to beat dogs and cats. That's not to mention that they slashed him with razors and poured formol on his injuries, leaving him in pain," the Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted 59- year-old Nguyen Van Be from Dam Doi District as saying.

"23-years each is not justice for what they have done," he added.

Nguyen Khanh Hung from Phu Tan District also said: "The shrimp farm's owners are too cruel. Poor

Hoang Anh! Their offense should have a heavier punishment."

This was not the first time the public had showed their anger over the case.

When details of the torture were exposed in May, the public was both shocked and angered.

The case has also raised questions about the governance of authorities under whom the abuse happened undetected for such a long time. Ca Mau's authorities have since censured the leaders of Phu Hiep Hamlet and Ngoc Chanh Commune, which manages the hamlet.

More common than we'd like to think

The case of 14-year-old Nguyen Hoang Anh being tortured by his employers in Ca Mau Province has shocked the public but international NGOs have warned that this is not the only case of ghastly child mistreatment in Vietnam.

Margrit Schlosser, Country Representative for Terre des hommes Foundation Lausanne, a Switzerland-based NGO acting to support children, said that "this particular case of child abuse and torture in Ca Mau is horrifying, but we should not forget that it is not an isolated case. In the past, the media have uncovered a number of other cases of child exploitation, abuse and torture."

"Hopefully, this particular case will make parents, caretakers, teachers, employers and other persons who are in direct contact with children aware that hands are made to protect, not to hit a child," she said.

Johanna Risse, Co-chair of the HCMC Child Rights Working Group, said the organization "pays special attention to cases of child abuse and was particularly shocked to hear via the media of the recent case of abuse and torture of a 14-year-old boy by his employers."

"We believe it is time to stop thinking that "˜this is family business we should not interfere' and start affirming that "˜child abuse is our business we have to intervene.'

"It is the duty of all of us to ensure children's rights, in particular the right to be respected and have life, body, dignity and honor protected as it is stipulated in Article 14 of the 2004 Law on the Protection, Care and Education of Children," she said.

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