Vietnam has vigilantes going after crooks, but they don’t kill people

June 5, 2018 - 11:35 AM
Vietnam's "street knight" Nguyen Thanh Hai (2nd L) and his team ride as they patrol on a street in Thu Dau Mot city, Vietnam May 24, 2018. Picture taken May 24, 2018. (Kham/Reuters)

In Vietnam, residents volunteer as “street knights” to help keep Ho Chi Minh City safe amid the growing problem in minor crimes with a meager police force.

As described by Reuters, these street knights normally wear flip-flops and tracksuits as they rode scooters to look for crooks at night, catch them and turn them over to the police.

One bike rider who was interviewed said that he gets 50 to 100 calls of help every day with crimes that range from petty theft to kidnappings.

“Whenever there’s a call I show up,” said Nguyen Thanh Hai in the report.

Another rider, Hai, said he had kept details of approximately 4,000 criminals he had caught and turned over to the police throughout his 21-year career of part-time crime fighting in a notebook.

“My little son gets so excited when he sees me on YouTube,” said Pham Tan Thanh, a part-time taxi driver and knight rider, who refers to the viral videos of his fellow knights in hot pursuit on social media.

Based on the report, there are some 1,500 residents from different walks of life, from taxi drivers to land lords, who volunteer to help reduce the rise of crimes in Ho Chi Minh City and the province of Binh Duong.

Being that they are not professional police in the first place, these vigilantes are not allowed to have weapons on their own. Instead, many received a form of police training on basic “legal issues” and martial arts to defend themselves from attacks.

They even modified their bikes to have police-like sirens and upgraded engines to reach speeds more than 106 mph for chasing down suspects of street crimes.

“You don’t think about money when you do this,” Hai said.

Reuters noted that police officers in former Saigon often lacked training, underfunded and insufficient to keep an eye out to all the residents of Vietnam’s largest city.

The Philippines’ experience

Vigilantes take another form in the Philippines, where violence due to reported death squads increased over the past years alongside the rise in death count of suspects-turned-victims in police operations.

Unidentified gunmen have roamed the streets, shooting down an inestimable thousands in what human rights activists call extrajudicial killings. Independent reports attribute the killings to rogue police officers, contract killers and other civilians who are promised rewards.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself and some of his senior officials are facing an inquiry at the International Criminal Court for inciting violence amid an international outcry for accountability.

Dangerous cities

Ho Chi Minh City, with its 8.6 million people, is ranked 56th in the Safe Cities Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2017 among 60 cities worldwide.

Manila stood before it in the 55th spot, along with many other cities in Asia and Africa.