The heartbreaking story of Vietnamese who died while sailing to Taiwan in search for jobs

By Hai Binh - Duc Hung   July 7, 2017 | 08:23 pm PT
Victims’ families said 12 bodies have been recovered while some sources said there were 21 Vietnamese aboard.

Many families in central Vietnam had no idea when their sons jumped on a boat and sailed to Taiwan in search for jobs.

They only learnt four months later after their bodies were retrieved from the sea.

Tran Thi Tam, 47, has put up an altar for her 26-year-old son Luu Xuan Hoang in their house in Nghe An Province.

Her husband is in Guangzhou to receive Hoang's body and have it cremated. His ashes will hopefully arrive home next week.

Tam said her son first went to work in Taiwan four years ago after they had borrowed VND150 million ($6,600) to pay a labor company. He came home late last year after his contract expired.

In late March, Hoang decided to come back, this time through no agency.

“We are going to look for some business in China. Don't worry mom,” Tam recalled a phone conversation with her son, which was also their last.

His was among the bodies surfacing in Chinese waters on April 18. Chinese authorities said they were all undocumented workers trying to enter Taiwan from mainland China.


Tran Thi Tram talks about her son who died on a boat trip to seek for jobs in Taiwan. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Binh

Tram said her family received initial DNA test results four days ago and it was 90 percent certain that the body was her son’s. Then her husband was asked to come over for a second check.

“Now we’re 100 percent sure,” she said, crying.

A man from Quang Binh Province also went to China last month to identify his son.

In Ha Tinh Province, a family just held a funeral for a 31-year-old Dao Sy Hung whose ashes arrived on Thursday.

His father, Dao Huu Thien, said the Chinese authorities identified Hung’s cause of death as “accident at sea.”


Dao Huu Thien with the papers he collected from China about the death of his son. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung

Thien, who went to China four days ago, said 12 bodies had been recovered from the incident.

Some sources who were aware of the journey said 21 Vietnamese jumped aboard that day.

But Vietnam’s foreign ministry on Friday only confirmed seven Vietnamese victims in the incident, including three men from Nghe An, two from Quang Binh, one from Ha Tinh and another from the northern province of Hai Duong.

The labor ministry said they were not licensed for the trip. A joint investigation between two countries has been opened.

Taiwan is one of the key markets for labor export from Vietnam, now hosting nearly a third of the country’s overseas workers. But it is not rare for workers to seek unofficial entry to avoid expensive fees.

Some 1,100 Vietnamese workers in Taiwan broke their contracts every month in 2015, almost twice the monthly average in 2014, according to official data.

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