Cambodian woman flees China captivity, wanders lost in Vietnam

By Le Hoang   May 5, 2020 | 04:02 am PT
Cambodian woman flees China captivity, wanders lost in Vietnam
Cambodian woman Son Se Kheng talks to police in Thanh Hoa Province where she wandered lost to in February after she had been sold to China and escaped. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Son.
A Cambodian woman wandering lost in Vietnam after escaping traffickers’ clutches in China has been helped to return home.

Authorities in the northern province of Thanh Hoa said they handed over Son Se Kheng, 25, to the Cambodian embassy in Vietnam as per citizen protection regulations on Mond.

A border guard patrol in Thanh Hoa’s Muong Lat District, which shares a boundary with Laos, found Kheng wandering in the area on February 29. She had no identification on her and could speak no Vietnamese. Finally, they found a local person who could speak Khmer and figured out that she was Cambodian.

Kheng said she was tricked and sold to China but escaped. Then she got lost and had been wandering on her own until she was found by the authorities.

Given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities sent her to a centralized quarantine facility.

Ho Van Trong, director of the district’s health care center, said Son was completely free of the Covid-19 virus.

"During the first days, she was quite confused but then she became more mentally stable," he said.

Thanh Hoa’s Foreign Affairs Department sent a document to the Bureau of Consular Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Cambodian embassy, outlining Kheng’s predicament.

On March 24, Cambodian authorities responded, confirming Son So Kheng as an Cambodian citizen who resides in Chloung District, Kratie Province.

Stories of women and girls from Southeast Asian countries tricked and sold to China are common.

Some 40 million men in China need to look abroad for a wife, as of this year, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank. This situation is the legacy of Beijing's one-child policy, which has seen families abort female fetuses for decades.

Hundreds of thousands of women from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar have gone to China to wed local men, activists say. Some end up happily married, others suffer violence and forced labor.

With few employment avenues for young women and ballooning debt levels, rural Cambodian families make soft targets for brokers who ensnare the relatives of potential brides in their schemes, blurring the lines between victims and accomplices.

The matchmakers are nearly impossible to track down, police say, hiding behind nicknames and throwaway "burner" phones while employing a network of local elders to coax young women out of the village by offering huge sums of cash to their families.

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