Miraculous Escape of Trafficked Victims From Vietnam's Highlands

There is an alarming increase in the number of poor Vietnamese youths in highlands areas who believed in the promise of an "easy-money" job and fell into the trap of traffickers. After miraculously escaping, they quarreled to start a new life.
August 06, 2023 | 23:07

A miraculous escape from "hell on earth"

Trafficked victim Ho Thi Th. is a 27-year-old Pa Co ethnic group woman in Dakrong district, Quang Tri province. She is an example of a victim who believed in the promise of a good job from traffickers then being sold to China. Although he has been rescued and has now reunited with his family, in Th's memory, that humiliating "animal-like" past still keeps her up at night.

In 2019, Th. left her small child and husband in her hometown to go work in Binh Duong province to look for employment. But 20 days later, Th. had to quit her job due to poor health and low qualifications. Without a job, she did not know what to do to maintain her life. Then, she was offered a job in Hanoi to work at a clothing store. The salary the trafficker promised her was VND 6 million, with food and accommodation.

At that time, Th. did not realize that was a trap. By the time she was sent to Lang Son, Th. still, believe that she was on a trip to pick up goods for the company in China. The traffickers won her trust with caring guidance and friendly conversation, making Th. about that good things are coming for her in the future.

Crossing the border to Chian, a man, known as "the guide", asked Th.: "In Vietnam, how much money do they give your father?". Only then did Th realize that she had been scammed. She immediately tried to call her sister-in-law to ask for help, but before she could, her phone was taken away. Th. could not do anything but follow her captors' orders because she was threatened.

Th. was sold into a Chinese family. For 5 years, she was imprisoned and had to live in the "hell on earth" without knowing what her fate would be. She did not know the language to communicate with anyone or the directions to return home because she was trapped in the house for 5 years.

The Miraculous Escape of Trafficked Victims From Vietnam's Highlands
The Quang Tri Border Guard brought trafficked victim Th. back to her family (Photo: Quang Tri Border Guard).

Every day, she woke up at 4 am to cook for the whole family, and "had to starve until everyone has finished eating, can only eat if there is food leftover." Being sold to a farmer's household, so she also works in the field under their watch.

During the time she was "imprisoned," the concept of date did not exist, she only knew the night and day. Working hard all year round, but Th. is always scolded and cursed. Although she did not understand the language, from their attitude and gestures, it was enough to see that everyone in the house only considered Th. as a slave.

There was one time she was close to escaping the "hell on earth," but by that time she reached the gate of the police station, the host family immediately captured her. They then took turns threatening her life if she ever dares to try to break free again.

One Evening in June 2023, Th. ran away again while the whole family was drunk. To avoid being caught, she kept running on footpaths and stayed away from the main roads. She runs away without bringing any belongings. As Th. stopped at a town, the local came to ask why she run away. That's when she cried for help: "I am from Vietnam, I was sold here. Please show me the way to the police!"

Fortunately, the kind people she met called her a car to take her to the local police station. The Vietnamese authorities took her in, then the Quang Tri Provincial Border Guard supported her to reunite the family after 5 years.

Various traps to lure ethnic minority group

Traffickers not only deceive victims with the guise of easy-money jobs, but also lure people of ethnic minority group by being friendly or flirting. Female student Lo Thi G. (Bac Ha district, Lao Cai) is one of many victims who have fallen into a trap of fake romantic interest.

The Miraculous Escape of Trafficked Victims From Vietnam's Highlands
Border Guard officers (second from right) shared information about human trafficking crimes to local people (Photo: Truc Ha).

According to G, a few years ago, when she was in 10th grade, she met a male schoolmate, an 11th grader, through Facebook. On February 6, 2017, this person asked G. to go to Coc Le market in Lao Cai City, to which she eagerly accepted because she had never been there.

As they went out at the market and, G. trusted her friend when he said to take a shortcut with him. She followed him but then panicked as they went further and further into the deserted hill.

“At 7 p.m., he handed me over to two strange men. I begged him not to sell me, I said no matter how much money he wants, my parents will pay, that I want to go home. But he coldly left…”, said G..

Telling her rescue story, G. said that after crossing the border, she was handed to another group. A few days later, she was brought to meet a Vietnamese man who seemed to also work with the traffickers. When he heard G. cry and tell the story, he asked the traffickers "This girl doesn't want to come with you, why bring her here?". They told him that it does not matter and that she can be sold for sell to 10,000 Chinese Yuan. The Vietnamese paid a ransom for G. instead, saying that his hometown in Dien Bien. He was a student there and had a younger sister who also fell into the trap as G., so he decided to free her.

"He [G.'s rescue] scolded me that how could I fall for people's lies even though I went to school and get educated. He told me not to trust anyone so easily, even relatives and close friends," said G..

After returning to Vietnam, G. filed a denunciation against the male student who deceived her, so that people her age can learn a lesson about not trusting the scammer easily.

66% of human trafficking cases in Vietnam are cross-border human trafficking

According to the report by the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam, in the first 6 months of 2023, the local authorities have organized to receive and verify 114 people; identified 82 people as victims of trafficking; supported 65 victims. There was an increase of 16 victims over the same period in 2022.

In the period from 2018 to the end of 2022, 66% of human trafficking cases in Vietnam fall into the category of cross-border human trafficking.

In 2022, the police agency discovered and evaluated 41 cases of 136 domestic traffickers, with 110 victims, accounting for over 45% of the total number of cases. In the first quarter of 2023, the police agency discovered and evaluated 28 cases of 99 domestic trafficking cases, accounting for 50% of the total cases.

Traffickers are increasingly sophisticated and cunning. They use many forms of deception and false promises such as sending people to work abroad, brokering marriages with foreigners, child adoption, surrogacy, child labor, and sale of organs and human parts in the form of donations...

Human trafficking crimes are often based on the victim's weaknesses such as uneducated background, difficult family circumstances, gullibility, and finding a job with a high income. To protect potential victims, it is important to have a practical and appropriate form of communication, letting people recognize the risks and serious consequences of human trafficking crimes, especially scams through social networks.

*The victim's faces and names were blurred and changed for their protection.

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