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In Vietnam, death-row prisoner turns over new leaf

Saturday, December 15, 2018, 15:58 GMT+7
In Vietnam, death-row prisoner turns over new leaf
Dang Van The (standing) speaks at a staff meeting at Lac Hong Hyundai Garage. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Imprisoned for nearly 20 years, 11 of which was spent in isolation, Dang Van The escaped the death penalty thanks to a pardon from the state president.

Now he strives hard at work and is determined to lead a good life.

On August 15, 1997, The from My Son Commune, Do Luong District, Nghe An Province in north-central Vietnam and his accomplice Nguyen Tat Dung were caught red-handed smuggling 20kg of illegal drugs.

The two were sentenced to death the following year, but only Dung was executed.

On July 7, 1999, The’s execution was officially postponed pending further investigation.

He was placed in a special housing unit for the next 11 years, during which time his good behavior qualified him for an appeal to the president of Vietnam for a sentence reduction.

On June 23, 2009, his sentence was officially lowered from the death penalty to life imprisonment.

The inmate fought hard for more sentence reductions by maintaining his good behavior and positive attitude until he was released in June 2016.

Dang Van The performs a car damage inspection. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Dang Van The performs a car damage inspection. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Finding his feet in a taxi fleet

The was locked up at age 22 and got out at age 41, ready for a completely new and changed world.

“It is not easy to rebuild your life after you’re released from jail,” The said.

His wife left him three years into his prison stint, but The had seen it coming.

“Some people asked me to ‘work for’ them, but I thought that such ‘work’ would just lead me back to a cell,” the man said.

Determined to truly blend in with the society, The managed to secure a meeting with the chairman of Lac Hong Trans – Cargo & Freight Company in Nghe An Province suggest the company expand their service to the mountainous Tuong Duong and Ky Son districts, as he knew these areas quite well.

After answering the chairman’s questions on the project’s potential and tentative pricing, The said, “We’ll only need five taxis or so, priced low enough so that the mountain people here can afford them.”

The idea worked and the taxi fleet has since expanded to 16 cabs in Tuong Duong and Ky Son.

The good boss

At that time, no one in the company knew that The was a freshly released death-row prisoner.

Only until his wedding ceremony in March 2017 did Nguyen Cong Nha, the chairman of Lac Hong Taxi Company, find out about his background.

Surprisingly, The was appointed a new post at the company – accident damage inspection officer.

“He [the chairman] told me later how he defied objections to take me in. Clearly their objections were well grounded,” The said.

“I was a death-row inmate. I barely finished grade 4. Giving me a driving job would be normal. But the position of a damage inspection officer is just so powerful.”

Commenting on his decision, Nha said, “When people voiced their objection to my decision to recruit The, I told them that such selfishness meant he’d have no second chance to mend his broken life.

“If we turn our backs on him, this society will just have one more smuggler. No chance to rehabilitate and no way to become a good citizen again.”.

Dang Van The received a certificate of recognition from the company thanks to his contribution. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Dang Van The received a certificate of recognition from the company thanks to his contribution. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Determination for a fruitful life

The position of an inspection officer demands utmost transparency at work.

“I have to deal with police officers and third parties, then finish off all necessary paperwork,” The explained. “I have to screen more than 500 drivers to sort out their attitudes and honesty.

“When under extreme pressure, I remind myself of Nha’s words. He said that I have to prove to everybody that his choice [of recruiting me] is right.”

In late 2017, The received a certificate of recognition for his contribution from the chairman and management board.

Right now The is on both the inspection and customer service teams of Lac Hong Huyndai Garage in Do Luong Town, Nghe An Province.

Recently, he was promoted as head of sales.

The endeavors of the middle-aged man bore fruits.

Now he has a promising job and a loving family.

He named his first daughter Dang Hoai An and his second girl Hong An, both meaning blessings from heaven.

“I always tell myself that I will have to live a life worthy of those who have chosen to help and love me.”

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Tien Bui / Tuoi Tre News Contributor


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