Theft warnings in Vietnamese trigger online debate

Vietnamese people are having an online quarrel about whether their compatriots have a tendency for petty theft in Japan, following the surface of an unverified picture on Facebook that shows warnings against the bad habit in the Vietnamese language.

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The picture was first posted last weekend on the Facebook page of a society of Vietnamese in Japan and has gone viral since. Cautions against petty theft are seen there in Vietnamese in a big box and in Japanese in a smaller one.

The Vietnamese warnings read “Ăn cắp vặt là phạm tội. Nếu ăn cắp vặt thì bị phạt tù dưới 10 năm. Ngay khi phát hiện ăn cắp vặt thì chúng tôi sẽ thông báo cho cảnh sát ngay lập tức. Camera phòng chống tội phạm đang hoạt động. Tăng cường tuần tra.” (“Petty theft is an offense. If one engages in petty theft, they will be jailed for up to 10 years. In case of petty theft, we will immediately notify the police. Surveillance cameras are in operation. Patrol must be carried out more frequently.”)

Some local netizens pointed out that the picture had been taken in Saitama, one of Japan’s most populous cities.

Many have asserted that the warnings were meant for Vietnamese people, with a Facebooker nicknamed Ta Huu Hieu commenting, “What a shame! This is for Vietnamese only. Please stop ruining Vietnamese people’s image with petty theft like this!”

Another Facebook user, Minh Thai, claimed that Vietnamese people are notorious for stealing trivial things in Japan so the person/people putting up the sign had good reasons to do so.

“Those who used to work in Japan or those whose friends and relatives are living there know the bad habits of the Vietnamese so they were justified in writing such warnings.”

This is a real picture, Huynh Khanh Ngoc, a Facebooker, said, arguing that nobody had enough free time to libel the Vietnamese that way.

“We Vietnamese are embarrassing ourselves,” she added.

On the contrary RaTu, a nickname, expressed disbelief at the photo and called for an end to self-humiliation among Vietnamese people.

“Why on earth would we defame ourselves like this with simply a picture whose authenticity cannot be proven by anyone?” the nickname wondered.

There is a possibility that the sign was written in Vietnamese just because many Vietnamese are living in the area, according to Minh Jun, a Facebook user.

“I don’t see any direct reference to petty theft by the Vietnamese in the picture,” he said.

The owner of the Facebook page who uploaded the controversial photo gave it a caption like this: “If your Japanese friend saw this picture and frankly asked you about its implications, what would you respond?”
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