HANOI: Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Saturday (Oct 26) ordered local authorities to establish whether Vietnamese citizens are among the 39 people found dead in the back of a truck in Britain on Oct 23.
Phuc also ordered the police to launch an investigation into alleged human trafficking activities. British police have said at least some of the victims may have come from the Southeast Asian country.
"Any violations will be strictly dealt with," Phuc said in a statement posted on the government website. He said he wanted reports on the case from authorities by Nov 5.
Vietnam's foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday that it had instructed its London embassy to assist British police with the identification of victims.
A senior British officer said separately on Saturday that UK police want help from members of the Vietnamese community in Britain and abroad to identify the 39 victims.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Pasmore said his officers had found "very, very few ID papers" among the bodies and hoped to identify the dead through fingerprints, dental records and DNA, as well as photos from friends and relatives.
Police initially said they thought the victims might be Chinese, but have since said they do not want to speculate on the victims' nationality before they have been formally identified.
"We don't know exactly the nationality of our individuals. But at the moment I am going to focus and engage as much as I possibly can within the Vietnamese community," Pasmore said.
People from a rural region in central Vietnam have said they fear friends and relatives seeking to move to Britain make up a large number of the dead, who were found in an industrial park around 32km east of London.
The truck driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland, has been arrested on suspicion of murder, and three others are being held on suspicion of human trafficking and manslaughter.
Irish police on Saturday said they had arrested a fifth person in connection with the investigation.
Pasmore, who is in charge of identifying the bodies but not running the criminal investigation, said his colleagues were keeping an open mind about whether the dead were victims of a wider human trafficking conspiracy.
"Criminals and murderers are taking more and more chances with these vulnerable people," he said.
Pasmore said he had spoken with Vietnam's ambassador to Britain to seek assistance with fingerprint records.