Home News Job-seeking Vietnamese teens trafficked to Laos, family members say

Job-seeking Vietnamese teens trafficked to Laos, family members say

Two families in southern Vietnam told Radio Free Asia on Friday that their children were recently taken by car to Laos “by a group of human traffickers” who seemed to be preparing to smuggle them into either Myanmar or China.

The number of children who left Phu Quoc City in Kien Giang province was at least five, according to family members.

One of them – Trinh Khanh Hoang Anh, 17 – was promised a job in Ha Tien, a city near the Cambodian border at the southernmost point on the Vietnamese mainland – but apparently is being taken to Myanmar.

Phu Quoc City is on an island of the same name in the Gulf of Thailand, about 45 km (28 miles) by ferry from Ha Tien.

“Five days ago, he left with a group, saying they were going to Ha Tien to find a job,” said Trinh Huu Phuoc, Hoang Anh’s father. “But unexpectedly they got in a car, and he didn’t know how, but now they are in Laos and preparing to go to Myanmar.”

The teenager sent home a text message asking for help and saying he didn’t want to go, but his new “friends” wouldn’t let him return, Phuoc told RFA. He questioned how a teenager could make it to Laos without a passport.

“My family is very confused,” he said. “In my opinion, there’s a scheme to tempt underage kids into jobs like that, because they’re all underage teens.”

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‘Hard to investigate’

Le Thi Truc Ly told a similar story about her niece, 15-year-old Le Thi Tuong Vy, who is also now in Laos.

Tuong Vy sold goods online and came up with the idea to travel to China through her Internet contacts, the aunt said. Many young Vietnamese people have been going there for work, so she decided to follow suit, she told her aunt via text message.

“Tuong Vy didn’t disclose anything, she just said that she had been asked to go to China in three days,” she told RFA. “During those three days, my sister kept a close watch on her at home.”

But while her mother was doing something at the back of the house, Tuong Vy slipped away with the new friends and got into a car, the aunt said. 

The family is poor – the parents work as hired laborers – and Tuong Vy only studied until the 7th grade and has no identity papers, the aunt said. 

Tuong Vy went in the same group as Hoang Anh, which she told her aunt consisted of six or seven people. When they drew close to the Thai border, the group was split into two, with all girls in one car and the boys and one girl in another car, the aunt said.

“When we reported to Phu Quoc police, they asked us to present Tuong Vy’s messages to them,” the aunt said. “They said if it was a kidnapping or something else, they would get involved. But in this case, Vy asked and voluntarily went, so it’s hard to investigate.”

Phuoc told RFA that his family also reported the incident to local police. They told him that she should file a report at the provincial police station in Rach Gia on the mainland, more than 80 km (50 miles) from Ha Tien.

RFA Vietnamese contacted Phu Quoc police to ask about the incident and whether Phu Quoc has recently had similar trafficking incidents. An officer who picked up the phone referred a reporter to the department’s criminal division. 

RFA sent emails to Laos’ diplomatic agency requesting comment about cross-border human trafficking cases, but the agency didn’t immediately reply. 

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