Burglar alarm: Confusion reigns as Vietnam jails man for killing intruder

Should we kindly ask the intruder to keep calm and wait for the police to come?

Phan Van Vien listens to his verdict at a court in Vinh Long Province, located in southern Vietnam, on July 13, 2017.

A Vietnamese man has been handed a sentence of imprisonment for murdering a burglar who broke into a fish farm he worked for, sparking a fresh debate as to what is the lawful way to deal with similar situations.

Phan Van Vien, 25, was sentenced to nine years behind bars by a court in the southern province of Vinh Long on Thursday, for the slaying of a thief earlier this year.

According to the case file, Vien was an employee of an aquatic farm in Vinh Long.

At around 1:00 am on January 10, Vien caught two local men, Do Van Thanh and Pham Van Dung, breaking into the farm to steal fish and immediately raised the alarm bell.

The burglars quickly escaped, but were caught again by Vien 30 minutes into the run, when they were hiding under a pond inside the farm.

Vien then used a spading fork to stab Thanh in his left shoulder, with the thief pronounced dead shortly after.

Police later handled the case and decided to prosecute Vien on charges of murder.

The jail term left members of the public confused as Vien apparently only tried to stop the break-in.

Many have even mocked that the next time they find burglars in their house, the proper thing to do is to ask them to leave, or invite them to have some tea, instead of fighting back or trying to arrest the intruders.

The reaction is comprehensible, given the fact that this is not the first time the property owners or guards have been punished by law when they resisted thieves or burglars.

Punished for arresting, beating thieves

In May 2017, a court in the coastal province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau punished two local men for beating an intruder trying to break into their coffee shop.

The café owner, Nguyen Huy Hieu, received a one-year suspended jail sentence, whereas his employee, Hoang Van Dung, was subject to 15 months behind bars on charges of “intentionally causing injury to other people.”

According to court documents, on the night of March 11, 2015, Dung and Hieu were standing guard at the café when they saw a young man trying to climb over the fence to enter the establishment.

The two then rushed to beat the intruder with a wooden stick and arrested him before calling police officers.

However, the alleged burglar later sued Dung and Hieu for assaulting him as he did not want to break in for theft, but only to “find a place to spend the night.”

The court then decided that there were not enough grounds to charge Hieu for stealing assets and ruled in favor of the intruder.

In January 2016, a court in the southern province of Ben Tre handed a non-custodial sentence to a local man for illegally detaining a 15-year-old boy after catching him intruding on his house.

Nguyen Van Trinh listens to his verdict.
Nguyen Van Trinh listens to his verdict.

According to the case file, Nguyen Van Trinh and his father found the victim, known only as K., hiding in their grocery store at around 2:30 am on January 21, 2014 and decided to hold him captive.

The father and son then tied the kid with a roll of rope and punched him, before hanging what they believed to be a burglar on a tree in their yard.

At around 4:40 am the same day, Trinh called local police to handle the case. However, the father and son were later arrested on charges of “illegal detention of others.”

The father committed suicide during the investigation process.

In February this year, the People's High Court of Ho Chi Minh City decided to withdraw the case file for a review to verify several conflicting details, following an appeal from Trinh.

According to Le Kim Dong, head of the anti-crime unit under the Hanoi police department, when catching thieves or burglars red-handed, everyone is permitted by law to hold those individuals captive.

However, they must report the incident immediately to the nearest police station, Dong was quoted by the Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper as saying.

“People should avoid beating the thieves or destroying their personal assets, such as motorbikes, otherwise they will face legal proceedings for injuring others or destroying their property,” Dong said.

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