Vietnam military changes story on soldier death

A Vietnamese soldier reported last year to have died in a fall in his barracks was instead beaten to death by his comrades, according to state media reports on Wednesday.

Nguyen Van Thien, born in 1998 and a resident of the central highlands province of Gia Lai, died at his military camp in November 2021. He is the third soldier reported to have died while performing military service in the country last year.

Senior military officers in Gia Lai first said that Thien had died after falling in his barracks bathroom. But on Wednesday, the Tien Phong Online Newspaper quoted the province’s military command as saying the young soldier had died after being beaten.

Reports last year that Thien had died from a fall were simply the army’s “initial assessment,” said Col. Le Tuan Hien, political commissar for the Gia Lai provincial military command. The Agency of Criminal Investigation for Military Region No. 5 has now filed charges against “related persons” for causing intentional injury, Hien added.

Hien declined to name those being charged or provide further details on the case, saying investigations are ongoing.

Initial reports by the Gia Lai Military Command said that Thien had fallen in his barracks bathroom at around 8:15 p.m. on Nov. 29, 2021. After returning to his room an hour later, he went into convulsions, and was taken by other soldiers in his unit to the Duc Co district medical center, where he died at around 10 p.m.

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Severe bruising discovered on his body was attributed to the fall, the army’s media release said.

Reports that another young soldier had died following a beating at his barracks in northern Vietnam’s Hai Duong province circulated widely on social media on Dec. 22, the 77th anniversary of the founding of the Vietnam People’s Army.

Hoang Ba Manh, 20, was allegedly beaten and died later in his bed on Dec. 20 in what an officer in a meeting with the victim’s family described as a “fight among soldiers.”

And in June 2021, Tran Duc Ho, a soldier from northern Vietnam’s Bac Ninh province, also died at a military camp. Representatives from Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense said that Do had taken his own life, but his family disagreed, saying that many injuries had been found on his body.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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