Tourists deserve better deal from police
Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers for suggestions on how Viet Nam could better assist tourists if and when they get into trouble – and if the formation of a special police force to look after them would make Viet Nam a safer destination for them.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
The sooner Viet Nam establishes a professional, English-speaking tourist police section the better. In HCM City, security guards in green uniforms in and around parks have a tag that says "tourist security".
Parents nationwide were shocked at the news that a man raped a nine-year-old girl and slashed her little sister to death with a knife in Ha Noi's Son Tay District on Sunday.
Earlier, two teenagers attempted to rob a gold shop in the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) province of Lam Dong. They also slashed the shop owner with a knife.
News of gruesome attacks that have killed or injured many people are frequently reported – almost every day in fact.
In the media and on social networks, people are discussing why there is so much violent behaviour. Many believe that it is triggered or influenced by violent movies, including many from Hollywood. Indeed, there have been some cases where robbers and killers imitated characters from an action movies.
Do you think movie violence increases violent crimes? What other factors could be involved in the rise of violence?
Please reply by email to: email@example.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, August 9.
However, none of the guards speaks English. Their only job seems to be to help overweight tourists cross busy roads. They only frequent District 1 and are rarely seen at night.
In Ha Noi, police race around at night in pairs on a motorcycle, dragging large sticks and carrying what looks like machine guns. This doesn't look warm and inviting to me. Both cities also have loudspeaker trucks or pick-ups with a few old and tired-looking guards sitting in the back.
Surely Viet Nam can do better than this? How about using university students to provide free informational tours at key intersections, markets and tourist spots? this type of service exists in Tokyo.
I felt safe in a downtown park in the Philippines when I saw a uniformed policeman patrolling near where I was sitting one holiday afternoon. Without warning, he pounced on a local man carrying a machete! I was unsure if I had been in actual danger, but I was glad to see the cops take him away for a chat.
Thailand has tourist police in Bangkok, but they don't seem to patrol the top spots. In fact, I was almost run down by one tourist police car. At least the driver smiled at me.
During my travels, I used the helpful, English-speaking tour services in both Manila and Thailand. The aides spoke English and translated reports that could be filed or taken to police for further action.
When I lived in Taiwan, the foreign affairs department had English speaking cops. One day when I went to get my motorcycle, it had disappeared. I reported it stolen and thought it was gone forever.
About a week later my neighbour said "police" and gestured riding a motorcycle. I got the building security guard to call the police. Someone told me to go the foreign affairs police station where I found my bike. I was happy and impressed with the service.
I see a lot of police sleeping in HCM City police stations at night, or smoking cigarettes and watching TV. That's not professional. Wake up! Stop smoking and get out on patrol.
At least, Viet Nam should have phone numbers that people can use to contact English speaking police. It's the least that can be done. The tourist dollar and the nation's international reputation depends on these measures being adopted.
Lee Han, Korean, Ha Noi
I once had a laptop snatched by two guys on a motorbike while I riding my motorbike in Ha Noi. I did not report it to the police because I thought that it would be a waste of time. They would be too busy to care for my stolen laptop.
After living in Viet Nam for more than two years, I decided to accept that police are of little help to foreigners and tourists. I keep reminding myself to be careful when going out. I know that local people also suffer the same fate, or worse, but rarely seek help from police.
It would be ideal for Viet Nam to have a police force dedicated to protecting tourists. Or, at least, groups in charge of assisting foreigners.
However, it is more important that they know a foreign language to communicate with foreigners, especially English.
I have a friend living in HCM City who was the victim of an attempted bag snatching. She said she called a hotline number to report the crime. However, she failed to get through to anyone who could understand what she was saying.
Viet Nam is a beautiful country. It will attract more foreign tourists if they know there was someone to deal with their troubles.
Hoang Thanh, Vietnamese, HCM City
I think the establishment of tourist police is necessary for the sustainable development of Viet Nam's tourism. As far as I know, tourist police are available in many countries, such as Nepal, India or Malaysia. In their presence, tourists feel much safer.
One of my foreign friends said he was always impressed by the friendliness of Vietnamese, and the safety of the country, except on a few occasions. When he travelled to Sa Pa, for example, he felt he would have enjoyed his trip better if he had not been constantly bothered by child vendors. They followed him everywhere and begged him to buy their goods.
Pierre Bermond, French, Ha Noi
I enjoyed having holiday in Viet Nam. I visited Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Mui Ne, Da Lat and many other beauty spots.
I have never been involved in incidents that necessitated help from police. Viet Nam is a really good destination for tourists.
However, I have heard of the pockets of tourists being picked, their bags snatched and phones stolen.
Foreigners should be cautious, despite the often placid and pleasant surroundings. Thieves are everywhere, not just in Viet Nam.
Tourists should be warned to carry a copy of their passport when going out instead of the original. But they'll still need assistance when they have trouble. I read in the newspaper that Viet Nam has set up crime hotlines in several big tourism cities and has implemented anti-criminal campaigns in HCM City.
The idea of a tourist police force is great, but maybe not at present.
Nguyen Tung, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
Several months ago, some of my friends and I wandered in Ha Noi's Dong Xuan night market. We suddenly saw a female foreigner looking anxiously around because her bag had just been stolen. Her passport, other documents and money were inside.
She kept asking: "Do you know who can help me?" At that moment, we could not think of anyone to help her, except the market security guards. So, we led her to meet one security official there. He was not able to speak English, so we acted as translators, then left. But I doubt that he would have been able to do much to help her.
It would be better for Viet Nam to have English speaking tourist police to provide assistance when problems arise. this would make tourists feel safe and secure and probably boost tourism. — VNS