Should self-organized 'knights' continue to fight crimes in HCMC?

By Dat Nguyen   May 16, 2018 | 06:34 pm PT
Voluntary vigilantes in Vietnam’s largest city have been operating for years without official recognition.
Crime scene at Cach Mang Thang Tam road in Ho Chi Minh City where two volunteer vigilantes were stabbed to death by motorbike thieves. Photo by VnExpress/Son Hoa

A crime scene on Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in Ho Chi Minh City where two voluntary vigilantes were stabbed to death by motorbike thieves on the night of May 13, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Son Hoa

The recent death of two Saigon “knights” while taking down a group of armed thieves has raised questions on the existence of self-organized vigilante groups in the city.

Two men of the “Tan Binh District Knights” were killed and three other members injured on Sunday when they attempted to apprehend a group of thieves who were trying to steal a motorbike parked on the street. The thieves resisted with a knife and fled the scene, leaving the knights lying in their own blood.

Having existed for two decades in Ho Chi Minh City where street crimes is an issue, Saigon knights are local men who volunteer to patrol the city to apprehend robbers and thieves. The knights usually form their own groups under a leader and ride motorbikes together looking for suspicious street criminals.

As one of the first knights in the city, Nguyen Van Minh Tien founded his group over 20 years ago. Tien’s group covers all 24 districts of the city and works closely with local police. He personally selects and trains his members, who are required to strictly follow the group regulations to ensure safety.

There are currently five knight groups operating in Ho Chi Minh City. Tien said that apart from his own, the groups mostly work individually without assistance from local authorities. “The knights who have just been killed are new to the job,” Tien told VnExpress. He said the group did not work closely with local police.

Ho Chi Minh City police are aware of the operation of these knight groups, but until now there has not been a legal framework for them to officially operate in the city, said Lieutenant General Phan Anh Minh, Deputy Director of Ho Chi Minh City Police in a press conference on Wednesday.

“The city police have been pondering on these issues for two years, but we have not found grounds for official recognition of these groups,” Minh said. The groups need to be trained in skills and understanding of legal knowledge to know what they can and cannot do, he said.

“I want this crime prevention model to be a formal and long-term operation,” Minh said. He said the death of two knights on Sunday should lead to efforts for an official regulation and protection for the operation of the knights.

The question of whether knight groups should continue to operate has sparked up controversy on the internet.

“Thank you knights, however I don’t support your actions as it’s dangerous to have untrained and unarmed men going around to catch robbers,” said Nguyen Cuong, a VnExpress reader, adding that the job should be done by police.

But Tuan Manh, another reader, believes that these knights should continue to operate under the financial and professional support from local police.

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