Criminal probe opened into fabrication of rape at military retreat

By Quoc Thang   January 14, 2023 | 03:48 am PT
Criminal probe opened into fabrication of rape at military retreat
Nguyen Tien Son, political head of Zone 7 Military School, speaks at a press conference to dismiss information spread on social media that a student was raped at the school's Center for National Defense and Security Training, January 12, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Dinh Van
The Criminal Investigation Agency of Zone 7 Military has opened a criminal investigation into the distribution of false information that a female student had been raped while attending military classes.

Suspects will be probed for charges of "Illegal provision or use of information on computer networks or telecommunications networks" under the Penal Code, the agency said Saturday.

The move came after social media was ablaze Wednesday night with posts saying that a female student from Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology (HUFLIT) had been raped while undergoing military training at the Center for National Defense and Security Training at the Zone 7 Military School.

A video circulated online captured the sounds of people screaming in the night, to which various rumors became attached. The most resilient rumor was that the screams were the sound of a woman being raped in the barracks, which at that time were occupied by students from the university on a school-mandated retreat for the fundamentals of military training, which is common practice at Vietnamese colleges.

At around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the center issued a statement declaring that the information online about the video was untrue, stating that the images and sounds had been "distorted with bad intentions."

The investigation agency has identified the suspects who edited, posted, and distributed the clips on social media, adding that this action has damaged the reputation of Zone 7 Military School and Vietnam military.

The Department of Cybersecurity and Crime Prevention of HCMC Police has collaborated with the agency to determine the motivations and purposes of those who spread the information.

Tran Hoai Trung, a political commissar of the school, said Friday that "Initial investigations revealed that fake news is frequently posted on Confession fan pages, which are Facebook pages where people can share their "confessions" about things anonymously. The owners of these fan pages use them to post false info, without oversight or verification, causing them to spread fast and trigger unrest."

At a Thursday press conference, Nguyen Tien Son, the political head of Zone 7 Military School, said that on Tuesday night a student had discovered that they had lost VND1.4 million ($60).

Son said other students accused a particular female member of their group of stealing the money. The accused student then rushed outside before she began screaming and crying because she believed she'd been falsely accused, he said.

Another female student in the opposite building began to record the incident with her camera phone and posted the video online without specifying exactly what had happened, he added.

According to the student who filmed the video, she heard screaming in the opposite building at 10:30 p.m. on January 10, so she filmed it with her phone and texted the video to three friends.

She asked herself in the video: "Seems like rape, huh?" Later she was told by a male teacher that the student in the video suffered from depression and attempted to jump from a high floor after being accused of stealing money, but she was stopped by other students.

She said she shared what the teacher told her to the three friends that she sent the video to, "but I did not think that things would go too far, that information would be distorted."

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