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Great sacrifice of the people’s knights
Son Nguyen
Friday,  May 18, 2018,15:44 (GMT+7)

Great sacrifice of the people’s knights

Son Nguyen

Two people were killed and several others critically injured on May 13 when they tried to capture two robbers on a street in District 3, HCMC and they have been extolled by people from all walks of life for their heroic and bravery acts. The two who sacrificed their lives – one aged 28 and the other 42 – belonged to a group of so-called street knights who spend their time whenever possible to patrol the streets to fight evil-doers. Their titles are adorably conferred by people, although their positions as well as their acts have never been recognized by authorities.

The street knights while riding on the street on May 13 night spotted a group of suspicious young men and secretly followed them. Right to their judgment, the suspects stopped by a shop to steal an expensive scooter, and in no time the knights approached to apprehend the thefts, only to be counterattacked by the criminals. As widely covered in the media, two were stabbed to death on the spot while three others were seriously injured and rushed to hospital. The criminals fled the scene and were arrested by police two days later.

Such heart-rending consequences to the street knights have captured strong public attention and aroused grave concerns, with many questions posed to authorities over how such brave people are left all by themselves in their daring fight against the evil. Responses from authorities in the city these days, as well as the grim reality facing street knights in the past many years, show huge risks the heroes have encountered in their endeavor to secure safety for the people.

There are around 100 street knights with five teams in the city, according to an estimate in the news site thethaovanhoa.vn. They are mostly manual workers, either a motorbike taxi driver, a blue-collar worker, or one running some errands. Upon any spare time, such men would get on their bikes to patrol the street, without getting any benefits, nor gaining support from authorities.

The most painful issue is that voluntary activities by these street knights have been running in the city for over 10 years, but such men’s status has never been formally recognized by authorities, meaning they cannot get any support in their dangerous pursuit of public safety. Such a point was admitted by Major General Phan Anh Minh, deputy director of the HCMC Police, at a news briefing on Tuesday.

“In more than ten years since such a model was initiated in the city, no regulations on their activities have been issued. As such, those street knights have to rely all on themselves when facing dangers, but they are not allowed to use arms to fight the criminals,” he is quoted as saying in Dan Tri.

That is to say such street knights gain no formal protection nor support from police.

“Such knights have sacrificed their lives to protect the people, but the question is who will protect the knights,” ponders zing.vn. The news site recalls how street knights have faced life-threatening dangers when pursuing the criminals over the years. These include a knight named Lam Hieu Long being stabbed in the stomach in 2012, another named Le Van Tan sustaining skull injury in 2014, and the well-known knight Nguyen Van Minh Tien being exposed to HIV when apprehending an HIV-infected criminal last May.

Several news outlets say that given the unorganized structure of street knights as well as the absence of formal recognition, these brave people should not indulge themselves into fatal dangers, as it is the duty of police officers.

“Although their efforts to apprehend robbers are praiseworthy, such risky actions should not be assumed by unprofessional people. Such are the duties of policemen who are well trained, can use weapons to fight ferocious criminals, and are entitled to benefit from their deeds,” says news site Vnexpress. Major General Phan Anh Minh also agrees, saying that fighting criminals is the police’s responsibility.

News site Infonet seconds the point, saying that police and grassroots militia are equipped with arms or weapons, well trained and have wages from the State budget to carry out their duties, while street knights do not enjoy such benefits.

Nguoi Lao Dong questions the need to maintain groups of street knights in the wake of the fatalities. If authorities see it as unnecessary, all such groups should be dissolved to return all the brave men back to their families, and police and security forces must be quickly strengthened to safeguard public security.

However, given the rampant occurrences of crimes and numerous gangs in the city, says the paper, it is necessary to have such knights on the street, and therefore, it is urgent for authorities to recognize them. In so doing, the street knights will be subject to training, can wield supportive arms, and can coordinate with law enforcement officers in their endeavor, instead of going with bare hands and without insurance in the dangerous fight against evil-doers.

HCMC police have also admitted their failure of protecting the street knights.

Lieutenant General Le Dong Phong, director of the HCMC Police Department, says on Vnexpress that his department has sought recognition for the street knights, and has proposed relevant authorities for an annual budget to support these people, all to no avail.

Major General Phan Anh Minh, meanwhile, says the police department has spent two years studying an operational model for street knights but has not yet completed the job. “If this force is recognized, police will make efforts to protect them and minimize damages,” he is quoted in Vnexpress.

Minh said that the model of street knights is necessary for the city due to the huge task of fighting criminals. “It is impossible now to build an ideal mechanism under which the State can absolutely protect the people and eliminate all criminals, so the people’s assistance in both actions and information is vital for fighting the evil,” he stressed.

To maintain the model of street knights, the country still lacks a legal mechanism to regulate their scopes of activities, their obligations, and their rights and benefits, says Lawyer Pham Quoc Thanh on Infonet.

For many years now, despite the absence of recognition by authorities, and despite having no material benefits, many brave young people have still pursued their noble ambition to protect the people and safeguard the city. Their sacrifices are tremendous, and therefore they are called knights, a title popularly conferred by monarchs in royal countries. However, they are just people’s street knights, says Nguoi Lao Dong in a commentary.

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