NGHIA BINH, Vietnam â€” The family of a Vietnamese woman identified as a suspect in the death of the half brother of North Korea’s ruler confirmed Tuesday that she is their relative, but said they believe she didn’t knowingly participate in the killing.
Doan Thi Huong is thought to be one of two women seen approaching Kim Jong Nam on Feb. 13 at a Malaysian airport. Kim died later after telling airport personnel that he had been sprayed in the face with a liquid.
Huong and a female suspect from Indonesia have been arrested by Malaysian authorities, along with two men carrying identity documents from North Korea and Malaysia.
Speaking at their simply furnished house in a farming village in Nam Dinh province, Doan Van Thanh, 63, confirmed that Huong is his daughter but said he couldn’t believe she would commit such a crime.
“How could she have dared to do such an earth-shaking thing?” Thanh said. “She was scared of rats and toads, she would not have dared to do it.”
Huong’s niece, 18-year-old Dinh Thi Quyen, said she believes Huong was fooled into taking part.
“My aunt is a very nice and kind person, but she easily trusted other people,” Quyen said. “I believe that my aunt was duped into doing it.”
Indonesia’s police chief has also said that the other female suspect, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, had been fooled into thinking she was part of a comedy show prank that involved spraying men in the face with water.
Thanh, a Vietnam War veteran who lost his right foot in a land mine explosion, said police visited him after Huong was arrested to check her identity and offered to help protect her rights.
Thanh said his daughter left the village about 10 years ago to study at a pharmacy school in Hanoi, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) away, and only occasionally returned home, where she had few friends.
The last time the family saw her was during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January, when she spent five days at home.
Her niece, Quyen, said Huong called her on Feb. 14, one day after Kim’s death, and asked her to buy a prepaid cellphone card so Huong could transfer the card’s cash value to a shop in Hanoi to pay for a deposit on a dress she liked. Quyen said she purchased the card and sent its identifying number to Huong, but it wasn’t clear whether it was then sent to the shop.
Quyen said after the family heard that Huong was arrested in Malaysia, they tried to call her, but could not get through.
Vietnam’s state media have reported extensively on Kim’s death, but didn’t mention the arrest of a Vietnamese citizen until Monday.
The government has said it is still working with Malaysian officials to confirm Huong’s identity.
Tran Van Minh, The Associated Press