US doctors report theft on train, local workers suspended

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Three railway workers in Hanoi have been suspended after five American doctors claimed that their properties were stolen on a train to the northern mountainous province of Lao Cai last week, VnExpress reported Wednesday (February 29).

According to the news website, when their train stopped at the Ngoi Hop station in the northern province of Yen Bai on February 24, the doctors informed local authorities that they found several of their belongings, including mobile phones, cameras, Ipads, credit cards and cash stolen after they woke up that day.

They said they found the door to their room half-open, although they did not remember if they closed it the night before, it said.

Le Dinh Loan, chief of the Hanoi Passenger Compartment Services Company's security team, told VnExpress that four of the doctors shared one room, while the other stayed in another room with a Vietnamese.

The lone American had his properties stolen, while the Vietnamese did not lose anything, Loan said.

He said initial investigations found that no strangers had been seen near the compartment where the foreigners were that day, and none of the doors were broken. Meanwhile, two backpacks were found in a restroom and claimed by the doctors.

Dr. Le Kien Ngai, chief of the National Hospital of Pediatrics' Bacterial Contamination Control Department, said the American doctors came to Vietnam on February 18 along with four others under a cooperative program between the University of California San Francisco's Medical Center and the Vietnamese hospital.

They were on a trip to the resort town of Sa Pa when the incident happened.

The case has been handed over to the Ministry of Public Security's Criminal Police Department and Yen Bai police for further investigations, according to the Hanoi-based company.

In an interview with VnExpress, Ha Thanh Binh, vice director of the company, said investigators had yet to conclude on whether or not the theft was real as tourists in the past have used accusations of theft to collect compensation for items they in fact were hiding elsewhere.

However, he admitted that cases in which thieves posed as passengers to rob real passengers did happen on trains operating on the Hanoi-Lao Cai route.

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