Former Vietnamese refugee wins prestigious award for fighting human trafficking

By Sen    November 7, 2018 | 09:14 pm PT
Former Vietnamese refugee wins prestigious award for fighting human trafficking
Diep Vuong, the latest winner of the Global Citizen Award instituted by Henley & Partners. Photo courtesy of Pacific Links Foundation
Diep Vuong, a former refugee who returned to Vietnam to fight human trafficking, is Global Citizen of the Year.

"Every time there was an opportunity for us to find a way to escape, we tried to take advantage of it. The third time we tried, however, the owners hacked off one girl's head and made us stay in the room with the bloody corpse all night. After that incident, no one dared to try to escape anymore...

"Every time we tried to escape, we got caught and were beaten, had cigarettes burned onto our skin, and were tattooed with the owner's code on our hands.

"I was a prostitute for almost a year before the Chinese police raided and dismantled the establishment, rescued us from prostitution, and repatriated us back home."

A 2016 blog entry by a 16-year-old girl now recuperating and rebuilding her life at the Pacific Link Foundation’s Lao Cai Compassion House bespeaks of the horrors Vietnamese human trafficking victims often suffer.

Diep Vuong, a Vietnamese refugee who fled to the U.S. many years ago, returned to Vietnam and set up the foundation to assist such victims and has worked for many years to prevent the blight of human trafficking and mitigate its impacts.

She has been chosen as the Global Citizen of the Year 2018.

Vuong was honored with the award at a gala dinner in Dubai on Tuesday.

The award is given by the Henley & Partners Group, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm headquartered in London. 

Founded in 2001, Pacific Links Foundation has now become a prominent anti-human trafficking organization in Southeast Asia. 

It combines preventive and protective measures, provides education and training and lays particular emphasis on education. The foundation also partners with multinational corporations to fight forced labor and reduce trafficking risks in their own supply chain. 

"Human trafficking is the major issue of our time, representing the ugly side of globalization," said Vuong.

"It is all-pervasive and yet largely ignored. The more we recognize the painful realities of our world, the more effective we can be in addressing and correcting them."

$150 billion dollar industry

Human trafficking is a colossal industry with annual revenues of $150 billion that affects over 40 million women, children, and men, coercing them to forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Citizens of the Asia Pacific region have twice the chance of becoming enslaved compared to a developed country, according to a report by the International Labor Organization. 

Vietnam, in particular, is a major source of cross-border sex and labor trafficking. According to the Pacific Links Foundation, 60 percent of all traffickers arrested in Vietnam are former victims. According to Mimi Vu from Pacific Links Foundation, a Vietnamese woman would be sold over Chinese border for VND1 million ($45).

Christian Kälin, chairman of Henley & Partners, said Vuong was being conferred with the Global Citizen Award "in recognition of her courageous, decades-long international campaigning for the rights of those enslaved by human trafficking, as well as her grassroots work in protecting those rescued from such enslavement."

Previous winners include humanitarian Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman from South Africa who founded Africa’s largest disaster relief organization, the Gift of the Givers Foundation and Switzerland-based Monique Morrow, President and Co-Founder of The Humanized Internet, which uses new technologies to defend the rights of vulnerable people.

Turning the tide

In her acceptance speech, Vuong highlighted the story of another human trafficking victim, Sao, who was kidnapped from Vietnam’s northern highlands and sold into China as a wife at age 15.

"She was forced to have a child with a man twice her age who after she had given birth was going to sell her to another family. She managed to escape back to Vietnam, but sadly, had to leave her child behind," she said.

She said Sao grew more confident and renewed her dream of becoming a doctor while staying with Pacific Links. After three years, she graduated among the top in her class and is currently enrolled in a medical college in Saigon.

Sao dreams of one day opening a clinic to help others and especially to help girls like herself, Vuong said.

"Human trafficking has become a global epidemic, yet the people who abhor it and want it to end far outnumber those perpetuating it. Let us find each other and work together to turn the tide."

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