Child humiliated for attempted book theft in Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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The photo of a 12-year-old girl with her arms tied to a railing and a paper sign reading “I’m a thief” taped to her chest has recently gone viral. She was caught trying to steal a dollar's worth of books in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.

A 12-year-old student was tied to a railing with a paper sign reading "I'm a thief" taped to her chest after attempting to steal two books at a supermarket in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai. 
When N., a seventh-grader in Gia Lai Province’s Chu Se Town, put two books valued at VND20,000 (US$0.93) into her jacket at Vy Yen Supermarket on April 8, she was only thinking about how much she wanted to read them.
After being caught in the act, a group of store employees tied her to a railing in front of the store and hung a confession around her neck and posted pictures of her online.
The girl has been in “serious shock” since the incident, her family told Thanh Nien.
She has not stopped crying and avoids her friends, they said, adding that they have had to watch her closely for fear that she will commit suicide.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted her father as saying that he was not trying to defend his daughter’s actions, but he believed that she took the books purely because she loved them too much to resist the temptation to take them.
“When she does wrong, her parents will punish her. This was an act of humiliation, not deterrence--to tie a child up and take photos of her like that,” he said.
N. said she intended to buy the books, but she found that she had no money with her at the time.
“I loved them a lot, so I put them into my jacket, thinking that I would read them at home,” she said.
However, she was caught after she walked through the supermarket’s entrance and triggered its alarm system.
Soon afterward, she was approached by four store employees: a man and three women.
One of the women started searching her and discovered the books.
The adults ordered her to write a report, detailing her transgression and include her full name, school, and family contacts. They threatened to call the police if she refused to do so, N. said.
After the girl refused to comply, two of the women took her to the supermarket’s main entrance, and tied her arms to a railing with tape.
The other female employee prepared a paper sign reading “I’m a thief” which was later taped to N's chest. The male employee then took photos of her with a cell phone.
“Many people at the time watched what they were doing to me. Some asked them to release me, but they refused. I was so ashamed,” the girl was quoted as saying.
Nguyen Cong Quynh Trang, N.’s teacher, said some of N's fellow students (who were with her at the time) called her for help, but when she came to the supermarket, she was told that the girl’s family had taken her home after paying VND200,000 in compensation.
Thai Duy Hang, president of Chu Van An Secondary School, told Thanh Nien that the school’s management board has informed police of the case so they can launch an investigation.
“It was heartbreaking to see your student being humiliated like that,” Hang said.
The books’ value is not big and there are many ways to educate a young person about stealing and theft, he said.
“It is too late now – an ugly, demeaning act has left major psychological scars on this child’s mind.”
In the meantime, speaking to Tuoi Tre, managers and staff of Vy Yen Supermarket admitted that the incident did happen, but also said that they did not expect the consequences to be so severe.
Tran Thi Kim Oanh, who printed the sign, said she just wanted to “threaten” the girl, while Phan Van Hai, a security guard who took photos of N., said he posted the photo on his Facebook later that same day “just for fun.”
Manager Nguyen Hung Vi said he was “very shocked” at his staff’s actions and that these days he has received lots of phone calls criticizing him and his staff.
He said the supermarket’s management board will punish those involved. The management has also sent a letter of apology to N.
Tran Dinh Dung, a psychological consultant, said the girl’s crime was “insignificant” compared to the punishment she got.
Instead of trying to educate her, the adults chose to punish her without thinking that she could possibly suffer from trauma for the rest of her life, he said.
“Punishments make a child either withdraw into fear, or bear a grudge against society and life,” Dung said.

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