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Persecuted child worker searches for right path

Update: September, 11/2014 - 09:28
Nguyen Hao Anh and his mother stand in front of their house . — Photo vtc

by Thu Van

Four years ago, Nguyen Hao Anh, 14, from the southern province of Ca Mau, became a media figure when he reported inhumane and barbaric torture at the hands of his employers.

This month, Hao Anh, once again, stirred up public sentiment when he was reported to have asked his parents to leave the house bought with the money people gave to him after his case went public.

He is said to have acted in anger because his mother would not give him some pocket money.

Although the 18-year-old boy has apologised and asked his parents to return, articles on how Hao Anh spent a lot of money on hand phones, motorbikes, and other stuff have attracted strong negative comment.

Many condemned Hao Anh for becoming spoiled after receiving so much money.

But look at the bigger picture. Can Hao Anh be blamed for what he has become, or should his past experiences be raised?

Being poor, Hao Anh's mother sent him to work for a married couple on their shrimp farm for about 20 months from 2009.

Reports tell of severe mistreatment, brutality and abuse. The aqua-farmers are even said to have hanged Anh from the ceiling and thrown boiling water and chemicals on him.

When the media discovered the story, police became involved and the couple were sent to jail. A sympathetic public poured in VND800 million (US$42,000) to support the unfortunate youth.

When treating Hao Anh in 2010, Doctor Tran Hoang An from the Ca Mau General Hospital, said he was seriously hurt, both physically and mentally. He also said that, in the long term, he might develop autism, panic attacks and avoid people.

Nguyen Viet Thiem, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Psychology Association, said a child who was physically hurt when small could have a tendency to be violent when older.

Hao Anh was sent to a social protection centre in Ca Mau Province, but he later ran away. He went back to his mother, who used part of the donation to buy the house they were living in, and put the rest into the bank under Hao Anh's name.

Hao Anh didn't go to school, but worked as a manual worker with his brother in his home town.

It was wonderful that kind people went out of their way to help him with money when they heard of his plight, but obviously, Hao Anh also needed mental care. Psychological counselling would have been of great assistance in his rehabilitation.

Hao Anh's injuries might heal up with time, but the wound in his heart is tremendous and will last for much longer. He will probably blame the farmers for what they did to him, he might also blame his own mother for not taking care of him better.

And he might carry such thoughts throughout his life if no proper counselling is offered. It is a pity that he left school early and did not return.

While the community helped with cash, it was somehow not enough. He needed education, counselling, and some one to tell him how to spend the money wisely.

The fact that Hao Anh said he would commit suicide after the media turned on him shows that he does need mental help.

However, it is worth listening to Pham Dinh Duyen, a lecturer from the Department of Military Psychology at the University of Politics. He said while psychological services were available in Viet Nam, their quality and effectiveness was questionable.

"It has been reported that many consultants only listen to customers' thoughts and then show them the sympathy and offer recommendations based on their personal experiences, not scientifically-based explanations," he added.

In the past few years, the mass media has discovered many cases of child abuse. This means there are more "Hao Anhs" out there - and they will need help.

This is why we need better social mechanisms to ensure that these youngsters are shown how to find the right path. — VNS

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