Vietnam arrests 8 more suspects over UK truck deaths

Total number of arrests in Vietnam rises to 10 in connection with deaths of 39 people found in truck in UK last month.

    British police initially said the victims were Chinese [File: UK Pool via AP]
    British police initially said the victims were Chinese [File: UK Pool via AP]

    Vietnam has arrested eight more people in connection with the 39 people found dead in a truck in the United Kingdom who are believed to be Vietnamese, according to police.

    Monday's announcement brought the total number of arrests in Vietnam to 10 since eight women and 31 men were found in a refrigerated truck in an industrial park in Essex, east of London, on October 23.

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    "Based on what we learn from the suspects, we will actively launch investigations to fight and eradicate these rings which bring people illegally to Britain," said Nguyen Huu Cau, Nghe An province police chief, according to the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

    "The best thing to do now is to deal with the consequences of the incident and help family members receive the bodies," Cau added.

    Cau said police were treating the tragedy as a smuggling incident, rather than a case of human trafficking, according to the VNA.

    British police initially said the victims were Chinese, but several Vietnamese families came forward to say they feared their relatives were on the truck.

    DNA samples and fingerprints have been taken from several families in the area as officials in Vietnam and Britain work to identify the victims.

    None has been officially identified so far.

    Perilous journeys

    Most of the victims were believed to be from the Nghe An and the neighbouring province of Ha Tinh, in north-central Vietnam, where poor job prospects, encouragement by authorities, smuggling gangs and environmental disaster all fuel migration.

    On Friday, police in Ha Tinh said they had arrested two people and summoned others for questioning on suspicion of involvement in the case.

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    The discovery of the bodies has shone a spotlight on the illicit trade that sends the poor of Asia, Africa and the Middle East on perilous journeys to the West.

    The suspected truck driver has been charged over the deaths, and on Friday detectives said another man, aged 23, from Northern Ireland, was also accused of 39 counts of manslaughter as well as human trafficking and immigration offences.

    On Sunday, a delegation of Vietnamese diplomats and police left for Britain where they were expected to meet their British counterparts, Vietnam's official government website said.

    Two families with relatives feared dead in the incident told Reuters on Saturday that authorities in Britain had asked them for help with visual identification of the bodies.

    Nguyen Dinh Gia, whose son, Luong, had a distinctive tattoo of a cross on his arm, said British police had called him on Saturday, via a translator.

    "The translator said my son is probably among the dead," Gia told Reuters news agency. "My one percent hope has gone."

    "My only hope is that they bring his body home soon," he said.

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    SOURCE: News agencies