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Violence climbs over baseless kidnap rumor in Vietnam

Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 17:00 GMT+7

Recent attacks on people wrongly presumed to be kidnappers in some Vietnamese cities have created concerns over why locals have become increasingly violent.

Given the rapid spread of news on social media and the lack of ability to process it selectively, residents of many neighborhoods across the country have become overly protective and even aggressive toward strangers.

In the most recent case, people in Mai Dinh Commune, Soc Son District, Hanoi brutally assaulted two women after assuming they were kidnappers.

The victims, Nguyen Thi Phuc, 52, and Le Thi Bay, 40, were selling toothpicks in the neighborhood on Saturday morning.

Upon stopping by a house, Phuc and Bay told a young boy to fetch his parents so that the two women could introduce their products.

Some adults at the residence then presumed that Phuc and Bay were trying to kidnap their child and screamed for help, before a large crowd of neighbors seized and beat the two women.

The attack only ceased once police arrived at the scene, with the victims admitted to hospital suffering severe bruises all over their bodies.

“I have not been able to sleep for the past two days,” Phuc said on Monday.

According to local officials, Phuc and Bay were selling toothpicks crafted by disabled people at a local society for the blind.

Earlier in the same week, residents of Dong Hoi Village, Thanh Ha District, in the northern province of Hai Duong, set a Toyota Fortuner on fire after assuming its driver to be a kidnapper.

Trinh Minh Hai, the car owner, was actually the director of DanReds Animal Feed Company.

Hai and his colleague had traveled to the neighborhood to seek a wood supplier, the director explained, adding that the locals had also threatened to beat them to death.

They were later assisted by local police officers.

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Residents of Dong Hoi Village, located in the northern province of Hai Duong, smash the car of Trinh Minh Hai after assuming he was a kidnapper on July 20, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Social media is to blame?

According to Bui Van Thoa, chairman of Dong Hoi Village, local residents have become increasingly concerned after information was shared on social media regarding the threat of kidnapping and organ theft.

The one-sided rumor and ‘fake news’ are often spread on social media, creating a sense of insecurity for people with poor education, said Dr. Khuat Thu Hong, head of the Institute for Social Development Studies.

Many people, especially youths, are not equipped with basic legal knowledge or the ability to tell real news from rumor, making it easy for them to be manipulated, Dr. Hong elaborated.

As students have better access to new technology and the Internet, they should be educated with the skill to process the information they get selectively and not to follow the crowd regarding unverified accusations, the expert suggested.

According to Dr. Nguyen Tung Lam, president of the Hanoi Psychology and Education Association, negative news flooding social media had caused people to become violent and unsympathetic.

Stories about good deeds in the community should be shared instead to spread kindness and optimism, Lam recommended.

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