Two families in southern Vietnam told Radio Free Asia on Friday that their children were recently driven to Laos by “a group of human traffickers” who appeared to be preparing to smuggle them into Myanmar or China.
According to family members, the number of children who left Phu Quoc island in Kien Giang province is at least five.
One of them — Trinh Khanh Hoang Anh, 17 — was promised a job in Ha Tien, the southernmost city on mainland Vietnam near the Cambodian border — but was apparently being taken to Myanmar.
Phu Quoc is located on an island of the same name in the Gulf of Thailand, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) by ferry from Ha Tien.
“Five days ago, he left with a group of people, saying they were going to Ha Tien to find work,” said Hoang Anh’s father, Trinh Huu Phuoc. “But I didn’t expect them to get in the car, and I don’t know what happened. Now they have arrived in Laos and are going to Myanmar.”
Foo told Radio Free Asia that the teenager texted home asking for help and said he didn’t want to go, but his new “friend” wouldn’t let him come back. He questioned how a teenager could reach Laos without a passport.
“My family was very confused,” he said. “It seems to me that there is a program to attract minors to work like this because they are all minors.”
‘difficult to investigate’
Le Thi Truc Ly told a similar story about her 15-year-old niece, Le Thi Tuong Vy, who is now also in Laos.
The aunt said Tuong Vy was selling goods online and came up with the idea of traveling to China through her internet connections. She told her aunt via text message that many young Vietnamese were going to work there, so she decided to follow suit.
“Tuong Vy didn’t disclose any information, she just said that she was asked to go to China in three days,” she told Radio Free Asia. “For those three days, my sister has been watching her at home.”
But while her mother was doing something in the back of the house, Tuong Vy slipped away with her new friend and got into the car, the aunt said.
The aunt said that the family is very poor, both parents are hired workers, and Tuong Vy only went to the seventh grade and has no identity documents.
Tuong Vy went with Hoang Anh, and she told her aunt that there were six or seven people in this team. The aunt said that as they approached the Thai border, the group was split in two, with all the girls in one car and the boy and a girl in the other.
“When we reported the incident to the Phu Quoc police, they asked us to show them information about Tuong Vy,” said Auntie. “They said if it was a kidnapping or something, they would get involved. But this case was Vy’s own request, so it was difficult to investigate.”
Phuoc told Radio Free Asia that his family also reported the incident to the local police. They told him she should report the incident to the Rach Gia provincial police station on the mainland, more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Ha Tien city.
Radio Free Asia Vietnam contacted Phu Quoc police to inquire about this and whether similar human trafficking incidents have occurred in Phu Quoc recently. An officer who answered the phone referred the reporter to the department’s criminal division.
Radio Free Asia emailed Lao diplomatic agencies seeking comment on the cross-border human-trafficking case, but the agency did not immediately respond.
Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.