Ban is starting a new job this week. Again.
His family doesn’t understand why he just can’t stick with anything. He’s a young man now but doesn’t seem interested in getting married or settling down. He doesn’t have any close friends and he has no plans for the future.
Ban is drifting through life from one day to the next. He seems to live without any hope.
Ban is one of the many rape victims of Olivier Larroque, a French doctor who was living in Vietnam until his arrest in 2013.
Larroque was notorious on the streets of Hanoi. All the homeless kids knew of him.
Every night, he rode his bicycle to the lake where street kids gathered and picked out a boy to abuse.
The children were broke and hungry. Many had such low self esteem that they didn’t care for their own safety. As much as they hated Larroque, they would go with him if they were desperate enough.
Larroque would take the boy back to his apartment to rape him and film the abuse. Then he would send the boy away and often go back to the lake to choose a second victim for the night.
At that time, Vietnamese law was not clear about whether a male could be the victim of a sexual crime. Blue Dragon’s work led to a change in the law in 2016, but when Larroque was abusing children there was a loophole that made it very difficult for the authorities to take action.
Larroque’s victims were so afraid that photos of their abuse would be shared online that one brave teen stole a memory card from the doctor’s camera to give us the evidence needed to stop him. Believing that the French police were in a stronger position to ensure justice, we handed it to them.
A few months later, interpol issued an arrest warrant and Larroque was extradited to France.
Despite the high number of victims and the photographic evidence, it took nine years for the case to reach court. For most of that time, Larroque was living as a free man. The victims of his abuse never heard a word from the French government about what was happening with the case – it seemed to have just been forgotten.
And then last year, news reached us that Larroque was missing. Nobody knew where he was.
The police found him two weeks later and a date for his trial was set. When the trial finally came around… Larroque was gone again. Nobody had seen fit to lock him up despite the fact that he had already absconded once.
Larroque’s court case went ahead without him present and he received the maximum penalty: 20 years in prison.
But with his whereabouts unknown, the court decision is just theoretical. And if he is found, he has the choice to appeal the decision and have the whole case heard again.
Meanwhile, the court also ruled that some compensation be paid – far below the level requested, and only some of the victims will receive it. Ban is one of the boys who will receive nothing.
There have been many other injustices along the way, too.
Like the NGO that joined the court case as a “civil party” and leaked parts of the children’s statements to the media, without the children’s consent.
And the fact that Larroque’s employer, the French Hospital of Hanoi, has never so much as expressed concern for the victims of his crimes. They have no legal responsibility for what happened, but it seems very poor form that a hospital would have no interest in the welfare of children who were raped by one of their senior doctors.
Despite Larroque’s arrest and sentencing, his victims are yet to see justice done.
Through these years, there have of course been some bright spots.
Larroque’s victims have been most fortunate to receive free legal representation from some excellent pro bono lawyers.
Emma Day of Child Redress International took a leading advocacy role from the start, along with Shireen Irani of iProbono. Christopher Mesnooh of Fieldfisher has been part of the case for years and represented the boys in court late in 2022.
There were many failings in the system, but the boys did have some wonderful support – and still do.
The case is not yet over and we are continuing to advocate for them to receive compensation.
Although the boys are all young men now, Blue Dragon is continuing to help several, like Ban, who still need counseling and material support to cope with all that has happened.
For our world to be right and for people to be whole, there must be justice. In this case, we are not there yet.
But we are still fighting for it.
You can read more about the case in this VICE article; and you can see the original news stories about Larroque’s arrest back in 2013. If you share our vision of a world where every child is free from exploitation, visit Blue Dragon’s website to learn more.