Vietnamese rescuers pause effort to recover body of boy who fell down concrete pillar

Human rights lawyers question the decision to declare the boy dead before his body is retrieved.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.01.05
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Vietnamese rescuers pause effort to recover body of boy who fell down concrete pillar Rescue workers try to remove joints around a concrete pillar to recover the body of 10-year-old Thai Ly Hao Nam who became trapped inside on Dec. 31, 2022.
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UPDATED at 11:00 a.m. EST on 01-06-2023

Vietnamese rescue workers are still trying to recover the body of a 10-year-old boy who fell down a hollow concrete pillar on New Year’s Eve but work has come to a halt because rescuers have reached a geological obstruction, state media reported. 

Thai Ly Hao Nam was declared dead on Wednesday by the vice chairman of southern Dong Thap province’s People’s Committee. Doan Tan Buu said work would continue to remove the concrete pillar at the site of a bridge construction and cut the boy’s body out. Local teams plan to bring up sections of the pillar one-by-one instead of removing it whole.

The work came to a halt Thursday morning because rescuers had reached a “special geological layer,” according to the state media reports. The pillar is planted 35 meters deep.

"In the past, we prioritized both the rescue and finding ways to save the child,” Buu was quoted as saying. “At this point, the conditions for sustaining the child’s life have ended. And there is sufficient evidence, it is clear that the boy has died. The dead body must be brought up as soon as possible to take care of the child's funeral." 

Vietnamese media reported that the decision to pronounce the boy dead on Wednesday had been approved by his family after local authorities and forensic experts met with Hao Nam's father, four days after the accident.

But human rights lawyers are questioning whether that announcement should have come before his body was recovered. He was trapped inside the hollow pillar after falling down it on Dec. 31.

Doan Tan Buu.jpeg
Doan Tan Buu, vice chairman of Dong Thap Provincial People's Committee, announces the death of Thai Ly Hao Nam on the evening of January 4, 2023. Credit: AFP

“They say he is biologically dead to reduce pressure on the rescue workers,” Vietnam-based lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan told RFA. “In reality I think they predicted the boy’s death from day one but now they’re announcing it. Legally that’s not correct, they just want to deal with it internally … they don’t want to bring it to the central government.”

In a Facebook post after the boy’s death was announced, another Vietnam-based rights lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, wrote that the current law only accepts two states of death: biological and legal death.

He said biological death is “absolutely immutable” because there is a dead body, but legal death is a judgment based on the length of time a person has been missing. It is still not clear whether that person is dead, so legal death can be annulled if the person is later found alive.

Rescuers 2.jpeg
Workers try to remove a concrete pillar from a construction site in Vietnam’s Dong Thap province to rescue 10-year-old Thai Ly Hao Nam on Jan. 4, 2023. Credit: AFP

“Therefore, the announcement by the [vice chairman] of Dong Thap province is only for temporary reference, or for the purpose of psychologically preparing the public only. Essentially, it has no legal value,” Manh wrote. 

He said, from a legal point of view, the boy must still be considered alive and local authorities are still responsible for making their best efforts to rescue him as a survivor.

According to Vietnam’s 2015 Civil Code, if there is still no news that a person is alive two years after an accident a court must decide whether or not to declare them dead.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn.

This story has been edited and updated to clarify in the headline that the effort to recover the boy's body has been paused.

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Concerned reader
Jan 07, 2023 02:30 AM

Are they not going to recover the body of Ly Hao Nam. Has this been permanently paused? Doesn't the family need closure?