Hanoi man arrested for battering starving 10-year-old son

By Pham Du   December 7, 2017 | 08:49 pm PT
Hanoi man arrested for battering starving 10-year-old son
The 10-year-old boy is covered with injures caused by his father, Tran Hoai Nam, a resident in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du
Doctors said he has a fractured skull and four cracked ribs after escaping from two years of torture.

Police in Hanoi have detained a man after his son fled away from an apartment where they were living together.

Tran Hoai Nam, 34, is under investigation for child abuse, following claims made by his 10-year-old son.

The boy is being looked after by his mother after he ran away on Tuesday night.

For the past two days, he has been screaming in his sleep, the boy's mother, identified as Ngan, told VnExpress on Thursday.

The boy's face is covered with scars and injuries and doctors have diagnosed him with four cracked ribs and a cracked skull.

He is unable to look at photos of his father and trembles with fear when the abuse he has been subjected to is mentioned.

For the past two years, his father and stepmother have allegedly beaten and starved him, keeping him locked up in their rented apartment and away from school.

“I don’t want to go back there,” said the boy.

Ngan and her husband, Nam, divorced in 2014 when they already had two children together. As agreed by the court, each of them took custody of one child.

From 2014 to early 2016, the boy lived with Nam, his stepwife and parents at a house in Hanoi, and Ngan was allowed to see her son on weekends.

In July 2016, Nam and his stepwife moved out of his parents’ house and cut all ties with his parents and first wife.

Ngan said she asked Nam to let her see their son several times, but Nam repeatedly turned her down.

“He always had a reason to prevent me from seeing my son. Then he changed his phone number and moved to a new place, leaving me no way of contacting my son,” she said.

The boy said he was forced to quit school after he finished his second grade and had to work like an adult.

But his father and stepmother did not stop there, and beat him over and over again, even when he had done nothing wrong.

“They often left me to starve and did not let me go outside to play," he said. "I haven't had a proper meal for two years and there were many nights I had to sleep on the floor with only a thin blanket.”

In two years, he saved up VND5,000 ($22 cents) and tried to run away five times.

On Tuesday evening, after getting a sound thrashing from his stepmother because "she thought I had eaten stewed beef on the sly,” the boy decided to make his escape.

With $22 cents, he ran as fast as he could to a xe om driver that he knew without his shoes on, “so that my dad and stepmother couldn't catch me.”

The driver carried the runaway to a bus station and helped him catch the bus to his grandparents.

“Though it’s been two years, I still remember the address. When I got there, I had to tell them my name, age, and date of birth before they recognized me,” the boy recalled.

Ngan said she almost collapsed after seeing her gaunt son with injuries all over his body and long hair after two years apart.

“If he hadn't been wearing a T-shirt I bought him years ago, I wouldn't have believed he was my son,” she said in tears.

The father told the police that his son was "naughty so he had to discipline him."


Nam reenacts what he did to his son for the police at the apartment he rents with his stepwife in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du.

Nam reenacted the way he had beaten his son for the police on Wednesday, bending a metal coat hanger into a rod and using it to beat the boy, and sometimes even using a soup ladle to strike the boy’s head or kick him in the ribs.

The stepmother has also admitted to the abuse.

Truong Anh Tu, a Hanoi-based lawyer, said Nam can be charged with "torture" and face three years behind bars.

Despite all this, the boy has still asked the police to release his father.

Child abuse is becoming more common in Vietnam, with most cases reported at nurseries; but criminal charges are rarely brought against the culprits.

The owner of a private daycare center in Saigon was arrested last month after a video of her and her employees abusing small children went viral online.

Early this year, two teachers in Hanoi were fined VND2.5 million ($110) each after an online video showed them beating crying children with various objects, including a slipper.

In a rare case, a court in the southern province of Kien Giang sentenced two babysitters to three years in jail in January 2014 for torturing children at an unlicensed private nursery.

Another babysitter in Saigon received an 18-year sentence the same year for killing a baby after she couldn’t stop him crying. She escaped the death sentence because she was under 18 at the time of the fatal incident.

According to government data, more than 2,000 children in Vietnam suffer serious abuse that requires special help and intervention every year.

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