Vietnam farm owner detained for probe into 3 unexplained deaths

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A shrimp farm owner arrested for questioning about three mysterious deaths on his farm would be held for three months, police in Vietnam's southernmost province of Ca Mau said Sunday.

Col Nguyen Van Tuoi, deputy chief of the province police, told Thanh Nien that Cao Van Lien, 41, is also under investigation for "illegally possessing weapons."

Lien, who owns the farm in a hamlet in Dam Doi District, was arrested on June 17.

Five days earlier two local farmers who went to the farm to catch snakes found the body of Pham Minh Hieu, a 20-year-old hired worker, hanged from a mangrove tree. It had started to decay.

Police, who then searched Lien's house, found a shotgun, two hunting rifles, two swords, and a scimitar.

Following Lien's arrest, Pham Minh Duong, 24, told Thanh Nien via telephone on June 20 that he used to work at the farm along with his two brothers Hieu and 22-year-old Pham Minh Phung.

Duong accused Lien and his 53-year-old wife Tran Nguyet Phuong of torturing the three, leading to Hieu's death.

Whenever one of them did something the owners did not like, Lien and his wife Phuong would make the other two beat him up, he said.

Lien would also beat them.

"Phung usually fell asleep, so he was punished frequently.

"One day his legs were swollen from a beating, but the couple still forced him to get into a ditch to catch fish fry."

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In 2009 Phung too died under mysterious circumstances, with his body found propped up against a wall in a goat pen. A few days earlier the owners had forced Duong and Hieu to dunk his head under water until he passed out.

Phung's health took a bad turn after that and he died soon.

In early 2008 a 16-year-old girl named Ut, thought to be Lien's adopted daughter, was also found dead on the farm.

She allegedly hanged herself when she was six months pregnant.

Shortly after Phung died, Duong and Hieu managed to flee, but Hieu was soon captured by Lien and Phuong.

Duong eluded capture.

Bizarrely, there have been no investigations into the three deaths until now.

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