Passengers getting on buses running from Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta provinces have been cheated and robbed by bus owners and drivers in broad daylight.
A woman has even been sexually harassed on a bus by a gangster.
Their trick is to park their vehicle near the Mien Tay (Western) Bus Station in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, pick up passengers and tell them that they have just left the station and are about to depart soon after filling up with petrol.
On boarding the bus, passengers are then required to pay for their tickets while money collectors are just gangsters who act as assistant drivers.
After payment, the bus simply waits for hours and only departs after they have cheated around ten ‘passengers’ for a trip.
The passengers themselves are mostly farmers who rarely travel the route. Those who ask about the long wait time are threatened and so agree to wait until they are robbed out of money.
To avoid illegal buses, passengers can simply enter the bus station to buy tickets instead of obeying the false promises of drivers outside.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists went on multiple buses and witnessed first-hand their tricks to cheat and later rob passengers.
At 8:30 am on November 10, the Tuoi Tre journalists got on a bus numbered 53M-2817 at the Comeco fuel station, which is opposite the gate of the Mien Tay Bus Station in An Lac A Ward.
Less than a minute later, a woman in her fifties named Hoang “Den” (Black), leader of a gangster ring, hopped on and pledged, “Just take this temporary seat. You all will be taken to a sleeper bus.”
At this point on board the bus was driver Liem, assistant driver Dac, and some 10 passengers.
Hoang “Den” collected VND200,000 (US$9) from one of the journalists to go to Rach Gia City of Kien Giang Province in the Mekong Delta.
A female passenger sitting behind said, “I got on this bus over an hour ago. It didn’t run but just went around to pick up passengers.
“When I asked them to leave, they verbally insulted me and locked the door. Another passenger had her bag snatched and robbed out of money.”
The bus departed at 9:00 am but traveled just 15 kilometers and stopped. The passengers were moved to another bus, numbered 51B-05049 “served” by Tam “Heo” (Pig).
Running for around 100 meters at a time, Tam “Heo” confronted each passenger to demand ticket payment.
The Tuoi Tre journalist explained that he paid VND200,000 to a woman, but Tam “Heo” blatantly denied, saying, “I didn’t collect anything from you.”
After threatening the disguised journalist, Tam “Heo” asked him to stand up so that he could search his pockets and bag and seized the last banknote of VND100,000 ($4.5).
Tam “Heo” threatened the passengers one by one, making gestures that he was willing to beat them at any time.
The passengers sat in silence out of fear.
Using the same trick, drivers Liem and Dac colluded with gangsters of the ring to continue duping and robbing passengers on another bus the following day, November 11.
A passenger gave Hoang “Den” a banknote of VND500,000. She kept it and got off the bus and another gangster came to assure the passenger that she would return to give her back VND300,000 ($13), but they did not.
On another bus on November 13, after conning and robbing a passenger on the bus numbered 51S-6445, one of the four gangsters unbuttoned the trousers of a 20-year woman and sexually harassed her after stealing her money.
She resisted and was threatened, “Do you believe that I strip you naked here?”
The assault had to stop because of her fierce resistance and his accessories’ reminder.
The journalists were also robbed of their mobile phones and given slaps on the face many times after the gangsters found that they did not have much to steal.
The four gangsters quickly halted their robbery after that.