Vietnam women arrested as child-trafficking allegations hit philanthropic pagoda

By Ha An, Thanh Nien News

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This undated file photo shows a nun at Bo De pagoda in Hanoi and local philanthropic women enjoy Mid-Autumn Festival with orphans living at the pagoda. This undated file photo shows a nun at Bo De pagoda in Hanoi and local philanthropic women enjoy Mid-Autumn Festival with orphans living at the pagoda.

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Police in Hanoi on Sunday arrested a worker at a pagoda known for homing orphans and abandoned children to investigate child trafficking allegations.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Trang, 36, tasked with caring for orphans at Bo De pagoda, was arrested with a local woman named Pham Thi Nguyet, 35.
Initial investigation found that Trang, Nguyet and several people had negotiated to give a baby to someone, whose identity is not known yet, for VND35 million (US$1,645).
Trang has admitted to “having sold” the child, according to a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper report.
The police have also summoned three other suspects, who were not named, for interrogation.
The duo were arrested following January information from Nguyen Thanh Long, a philanthropist in the capital city who is familiar to the pagoda, that the abandoned baby that he had been caring for was taken away.
Long said he and his wife had been treating Cu Nguyen Cong, named by the pagoda, as their godson since late 2013. He was left at the gate of the pagoda soon after birth in October 2013.
The couple brought the baby home several days a week to take care of him.
On the afternoon of December 31, 2013, when they baby was with the couple, Trang asked them to bring the baby back as "some officials" were coming to visit the orphanage.
They did as requested.
But when they returned four days later to take him to a regular health check-up, they were told that he was longer there.
Trang told them his mother had come to receive him back.
Long doubted her story and asked the police to step in.
The police are looking deeper to see if the violation involved higher people at the pagoda. Bo De is known for putting a roof on hundreds of children who lost their parents or were simply abandoned, including those born with HIV.

Monk Thich Dam Lan, head of the pagoda, said of Trang’s arrest: “We never thought Trang would do such a thing and that she was such a person.”

He said Trang was a poor wanderer that the pagoda accommodated around October 2010.

Trang has been kind, smart and quick and she was tasked with managing the cleaning at the orphanage.

“She did a good job at the pagoda. I really don’t understand the reason that made her do such a thing to be arrested. I only heard that Trang went somewhere with a woman and was lured into something. I’m not aware of more details,” the monk said.

Sources told Thanh Nien News that Trang was admitted into the pagoda together with two children she claimed hers, after she parted with her husband.

During her time at the pagoda, she was in relationship with another man, having a child with him and also brought that child into the pagoda.

By the time she was arrested, the two older children have been transferred to Bat Trang pagoda in the capital city.

The father of her latest child had come to the pagoda to fetch the child.

The sources also said Trang was addicted to so de an illegal numbers game based on the state lottery, allowing players to bet any amount they want for payoffs up to 80 times the original wager.

Some of her alleged creditors came to the pagoda on Monday morning asking about her.

Trading a child in Vietnam is punishable by three to ten years in jail under the Penal Code.
Those who commit repeated, organized violation, or any similar activity that involves more than one child face the life sentence.

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