Search for boy who vanished in Japanese forest enters Day 5

Japanese Self-Defense Force soldiers and police officers search for 7-year-old boy who went missing May 28, 2016 in woods near Nanae, town on northernmost Japanese main island of Hokkaido, in photo taken by Kyodo on June 2, 2016

REUTERS

TOKYO -- The search for a boy who disappeared in a Japanese forest pushed into a fifth day on Thursday with no clues to his fate. His parents say he vanished after they left him behind in the forest as punishment.

Yamato Tanooka, 7, has been missing since Saturday after, his parents say, they made him get out of their car as punishment for misbehaving, leaving him behind in a wooded area on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island.

Police said Thursday's search by more than 180 rescuers, including defense troops, focused on the area where the boy was believed to have been dropped off, and revisiting and combing through the woods.

The case has captured national attention, with many praying for the boy's safe return, while others were bitterly criticizing the parents, triggering a debate over whether what they say was their treatment of the boy was discipline or child abuse.

Police report the parents said they made the boy get out of the car as "discipline," after changing their earlier story that he had disappeared while picking wild vegetables.

The parents told police they were punishing the boy, reportedly for throwing rocks at people and cars while playing at a river earlier in the day.

The father said the boy was gone when he returned to the site several minutes after leaving him, police said.

Police said they were considering whether the parents should be charged with child abandonment.