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[HANOI] Vietnam has banned players of the game Pokemon Go from the offices of its government and ruling Communist Party, besides defence locations, as thousands of its citizens get swept up in the frenzy to capture virtual cartoon characters.
Hundreds of thousands of players have downloaded the game since its Aug 6 launch in Vietnam, with many annotating the Google version of the country's map to aid their quest, the Information and Communications Ministry said in a statement.
The game is not licensed, however, and people should not play it "near or inside the areas of offices of the Communist Party, the state, the military and national defence sites and other restricted areas", the ministry said late on Wednesday.
Players engrossed in the game may run into trouble in spots such as railways, highways, airports, rivers, lakes and mountains, apart from the risk of losing personal information, the ministry added.
"Playing Pokemon Go while in traffic causes more bad than good influence on people," Captain Nguyen Minh Duc of the Hanoi traffic police told an online forum on Thursday. "Traffic rule breakers do not only cause harm to themselves but also affect others."
Pokemon Go uses augmented reality and Google mapping to make animated characters appear in the real world, overlaid on the nearby landscape viewed through players' mobile phone cameras.
The game has prompted safety warnings after players glued to their phones stumbled, were robbed or wandered into dangerous places.
Last week neighbouring Cambodia banned the game from a former Khmer Rouge torture centre and prison after players showed up at the site, now a genocide museum, hunting for Pokemon characters.
Thailand also plans to place spots such as the Royal Palace grounds, Buddhist temples and hospitals out of bounds for Pokemon Go players.
Vietnam and Thailand have the fastest growing smartphone markets in Southeast Asia, along with the Philippines.