Pancake shop owner faces three years in jail for child abuse

A representative of the local police department on November 23 confirmed pancake shop owner Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet in Bac Ninh Province had been taken into custody, probed on charges of abuse that carry a prison term of up to three years.

Truong Quang Duy, 14, at the Yen Phong District general hospital in Bac Ninh Province.

A 14-year-old boy in northern Bac Ninh Province had been beaten by his employers with pestles and fish scaler for a month before he managed to break free, Vnexpress reported.

Truong Quang Duy is still having his wounds treated at the Yen Phong District general hospital on Monday, two days after admission. In the absence of his brother, he was treated to lunch by his hospital roommates. Duy admitted it has been a long time since he had a good meal.

Two months' prior, Duy was taken by his brother from central Quang Ngai Province to Bac Ninh for possibly his first ever job. He was delivered to a Vietnamese pancake shop run by 34-year-old Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet in Yen Phong District, where he waited tables and did the dishes. Duy and another 21-year-old fellow employee stayed and ate at the shop with the owner's family every day.

But things soon turned considerably sour. Since the end of October, Duy had suffered repeated beatings at the hands of Tuyet and her husband, not to mention the verbal abuse preceding each confrontation. Besides, he was forbidden from leaving the shop, and not paid a single dong for his two months' employ.

"Every time she grew frustrated or thought I didn’t do my job right, she pinched my ears, slapped my face, kicked me or used pestles to hit me against the head and back. There was a time when she used a fish scaler to hit me directly on the back, the holes of which remain. Her husband also beat me, but he didn’t use any implements," Duy recalled, adding the 21-year-old employee also got beaten.

"For an entire month, I was beaten almost daily. I was not allowed to eat like usual, but only fed when there were leftover pancakes," he said, before bursting into tears.

One beating is seared into Duy’s memory. It had occurred last week when Tuyet used a still piping-hot pancake mold to hit Duy directly on the arm.

"My arm bled and swelled," Duy said, recalling how he had begged her to stop, but in vain.

Duy's escape became a probability on the afternoon of November 21, when his employers were out collecting their kids. After four hours' running, he encountered two workers who offered him refuge and informed the police of his ordeal.

On November 23, a representative of the Yen Phong police department confirmed Tuyet had been taken into custody, probed on charges of abuse that carry a prison term of up to three years.

Duy is the youngest child in his family of three siblings. He never finished middle school and stayed home to take care of his father.

"My father is sick. My mother died when I was five. I no longer remember her face," he said.

A Yen Phong District general hospital representative said upon his admission, Duy displayed multiple injuries and a disturbed mental state. While his health is currently stable, he would need additional treatment over the next 10 days. Local officials have not discussed plans on what would happen to him on discharge.

A neighborhood local said Tuyet and her husband often verbally abused their employees, but that no outsider dared intervene.

About 1.4 million Vietnamese children suffered exploitation last year, including those in illegal employ, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs. The government is aiming at multiple solutions to prevent child abuse and exploitation, including public education and improving child protection services.

Pham Du