Hours after being detained by police on Sunday, a 28-year-old Vietnamese man died. Family members accuse officers of beating him to death, saying his body was covered with bruises.
Authorities, however, say Bui Van Hai died in the hospital after Duc Linh district police rushed him there when he showed signs of “fatigue and difficulty breathing,” a statement in Tuesday’s People’s Public Security Newspaper said.
The report said he was accused of stealing two dogs.
Either way, Hai is the latest person to die from “unidentified causes” while in Vietnamese police custody in recent years.
At least 16 people have died in police stations or detention facilities between 2018 and 2021, according to statistics collected by RFA from Vietnamese state-owned media reports.
In May, a 26-year-old suspect died just hours after being detained at Bu Dang District Police’s temporary detention facility in Binh Phuoc province. His family told RFA that they believe his death was the result of a police beating.
In Hai’s case, he was invited to come to a meeting at the commune police headquarters at around 6:00 pm on Sunday, his older brother, Bui Manh Hung, said. He escorted his brother to the building and then left.
At 11:45 pm, Hung was informed that his brother had been transported to the Duc Linh District Hospital, where he had died soon afterwards.
‘Bluer than a chunk of beef’
When Hung arrived at the hospital, his brother was dead and there were no police officers present. Medical staff told him that at around 9:00 pm, two people wearing masks carried Bui Van Hai into the hospital and then departed.
Hung said his brother was covered in bruises.
“I filmed and took photos of him. He was darker and bluer than a chunk of beef. Internal beatings caused all of his injuries,” Hung said. “They hit him, causing internal bruises and injuries.”
In response to Hung’s request for more information, the Southern Binh Thuan General Hospital confirmed Tuesday that Hai was already dead when he arrived at the hospital.
Hung has denied authorities’ accusations against his brother, saying Hai was sleeping at home at the time of the alleged burglary.
“Our family was very saddened, shocked, confused and outraged at the accusations made by the police and state-owned media,” he said.
After he and his family brought Hai’s body home, the police prevented them from using a vehicle to transport a freezer in which they planned to preserve Hai’s body as they awaited results of a forensic examination, he said.
Hung also said that authorities from the district, commune and village levels all pressured his family to bury Hai as soon as possible, despite the family’s calls for an investigation into his cause of death.
Hung told RFA that he believes local authorities are trying to cover up the cause of his brother’s death and hamper any investigations into the case.
RFA got no response when it reached out to Duc Linh District Police Chief and other local authorities for comment.
On Tuesday, Hung told RFA reporters that if Hai’s case is not adequately investigated by local authorities, he will personally reach out to Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security General To Lam to demand an explanation for his brother’s death.
“So far, I haven’t made a request,” he said. “However, if the case is not investigated properly, I will demand Minister To Lam’s participation so that my dead brother won’t suffer any more unfairness and injustice.”
Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Claire McCrea and Malcolm Foster.