The slaughtering of a family that occurred in the course of a robbery in Bac Giang Province has dominated the headlines recently. The alleged perpetrator was under 18 years of age, underscoring Ministry of Public Security statistics that reflect a rise in juvenile crime. Viet Nam News reporters Thu Huong Le and Quynh Hoa Tran gathered some insights into the role society plays in educating young people and preventing juvenile crime.
Most Venerable Thich Chon Thien, Member of the National Assembly, permanent vice president of the Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha (Thien has a degree in educational psychology and psychotherapy from Ohio University in the US):
Most Venerable Thich Chon Thien
Under Buddhist concepts, all crimes are traced back to three common traits of human psychology: greed, anger and delusion. The stronger these grow, the more serious crimes people commit.
We have to control these psychologies by understanding what causes them. What is happening in society that ignites human desires? Teens experience a rapid development in their psychology, particularly in a society flooded by adult movies and unhealthy games. Children usually imitate what they see, so violent games and pornography are dangerous. They destroy young psychology.
Vietnamese society has been changing too fast, and it has become a consumer society. This results in greater greed and human desire. Meanwhile, adults are role models for children, so they need to set good examples if they want their own children to become good people. Unfortunately, today's adults have too many problems themselves. Corruption, excessive drinking, immorality and gambling by adults have a negative influence on teenagers.
In the recent case of the teenager Le Van Luyen, who allegedly killed three members of a single family in a gold shop robbery in Bac Giang, his family, educators and society as a whole share the responsibility. Therefore, those who insist that he deserves the death penalty for the cruelty of his crime and who are calling for a change in Vietnamese law to allow a minor to be executed are not being fair.
Buddhism is associated with love and compassion, which means even criminals should be forgiven. But a society cannot be run in that way. It has to be rule-bound, and those who commit crimes have to be punished. However, these people still need to be given a chance to correct their mistakes. Young lives can be salvaged.
To reduce juvenile crime, education plays a crucial role. Education needs to start from early age. At school, small children need to be taught to hate the wrong things. These moral lessons need to be fed intensively into children's mind until they become a natural part of their lives. There needs to be more civics lessons in the school curriculum, and the way it is taught must be interesting for children. Parents also have to take another look at their lifestyles. Children who are the victims of neglect and bad moral examples usually suffer.
In Buddhism, only love and compassion can defeat cruelty. That's why they need to be nurtured in children. Back to the roots of all crimes, greed, anger and delusion can be contained. If children are educated to have love and compassion, friendliness and knowledge, these things can be controlled.
Le Nguyen Thanh, head of the criminology division, Criminal Law Department, HCM City University of Law:
The widening gap between the rich and poor and urban and rural areas can be seen in the increasing numbers of people who cannot find jobs to support themselves and their families. Their lives are mostly unstable. The rise of crime and the growing income gap can produce interrelated consequences. We've seen that there's a growing number of low-income people who resort to crime in order to elevate themselves into a higher standard of living. It's of even greater concern when many young people resort to crime to escape economic hardship, rather than working or studying.
Associate Prof Neal Newfield
We can also look at the rise of juvenile crime as "spontaneous" acts that reflect isolated lives which lack understanding from others. Our society has offered young people many opportunities but many others feel lost. Sometimes, it's because of an overemphasis on material things, and that has led to many young people believing that their problems can be solved by acquiring material goods.
The current rise in juvenile crime raises major concerns in terms of the level of brutality. The rise in juvenile crime also warns us that "mismanagement" by parents and schools lead to major problems. Some parents are too busy to know where their children are or what kind of relationships they are in. Schools cannot control student behaviors, leading to an increase in school violence. Local authorities cannot manage the flow of migrants, many of whom have been previously convicted and were involved in violent gangs in their areas.
Education plays a critical role in educating young people, not just in terms of textbook knowledge but in terms of instilling good values. That responsibility must be shared by the society, schools and in each family.
Neal Newfield, associate professor of social work at West Virginia University, approved supervisor of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, teacher and researcher at An Giang University since 2005:
When horrible events occur, such as the murder of almost an entire family for their gold in a country where community and caring for others is so important, it's natural to want to know why this happened. There isn't a single cause or cure but rather multiple influences or reasons for a person behaving the way they did. Factors that influence an individual's behavior can include biological, psychological, community and societal forces.
In regards to the 17-year-old from Bac Giang Province who allegedly murdered a couple and their 18-month-old baby, some may point to the educational system and ask, has it failed and is there more need for guidance counseling at school? Others may point to the family. Others may attribute the problem to youth isolating themselves and being too secretive with their parents. Still, others will focus on society as a whole and answer that Viet Nam should be doing something when it comes to their youth.
We believe that fostering kindness and reaching out to others in a spirit of co-operation can produce positive change in the long run. More positive school guidance for youth, more parental involvement with their children, and communities and a society that create programmes and opportunities for youth can further help in the process of producing good people. — VNS