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Saigon social support center director demoted after molestation scandal

By Trung Son   January 6, 2020 | 04:08 am PT
Saigon social support center director demoted after molestation scandal
The facade of the Social Support Center in Ho Chi Minh City's Binh Thanh District. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Cong.
The director of Social Support Center in HCMC, Vo Thi Thanh Kim, has been demoted after an employee was caught molesting teenage girls.

The decision was announced Monday by the city’s Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, which oversees the center. It came two months after Nguyen Tien Dung, an employee of the center, was accused of molesting at least six teenage girls in an incident that triggered a public outcry.

Kim will now function as deputy director of the center.

Pham Dinh Luong, deputy director of the center, was given an official warning, while some other officials of the center were "strictly disciplined" after the molestation scandal came to light.

Last November, two of the victims filed a complaint with local authorities, accusing Dung of coercing them to let him touch their breasts or genitalia if they wanted to smoke or visit their relatives.

When police launched a criminal investigation, at least six girls aged between 13 and 15 raised their voices and claimed they were victims, too, with some suffering from mental trauma as a result of their experiences.

Dung is facing charges for "molestation of a person under 16," a crime punishable by six months to three years in prison under the Penal Code.

The victims were vagrants living in a local park brought to the center by authorities.

The Social Support Center in Saigon's Binh Thanh District receives vagrants, beggars and homeless people. After three months, those who have families, are allowed to go home while the rest are moved to shelters.

Around 700 children in Saigon have been sexually harassed, molested or abused in the last five years, according to official figures. Many of them were injured, mentally scarred, pregnant, or even killed.

Vietnam recorded 1,547 child sex abuse cases in 2018, down 2.8 percent from a year ago, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

In most cases, the perpetrators have been found to be people familiar with the children, such as teachers, school security officials, relatives and neighbors, prompting lawmakers and non-governmental organizations to call for Vietnamese parents to be more alert and pay more attention.

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