TUESDAY, 1 APRIL 2014, Unofficial Translation from The Phnom Penh Post’s Khmer edition
I am sure you will recall the column about Cambodian women who are trafficked to China through the form of cross-border marriage in last week’s issue. In this issue, I am going to present a column about another form of human trafficking in which the victims are cheated and sold to China with the use of the term “employment” as the lure. This kind of trafficking requires strong networks and clear structures in both Cambodia and China.
The main factors that draw the victims into this scheme are poverty and low income. “Easy jobs” and “High salary”, the two phrases which the traffickers always use, entice their target from further consideration before making the decision to leave for China.
I am going to raise a case about a victim of this kind of trafficking, a Cambodian woman who was sold twice to China, just within the period of less than a month. She has just come back to Cambodia recently, after having experience hardships and pursuits in China.
Living in Takmao, Kandal province, she was a widow with two children, and their only way of living was to look for snail, fish, and water convolvulus from the nearby pond to sell in the local market. The victim had not known the trafficker before. The trafficking method started with the trafficker coming to buy fish from the victim and having a talk with her as friendly client. After three or four days, the trafficker said to her that her job could not help her improve her family situation nor even support her children. The trafficker added that if she went to work in China, she would initially get 700 US dollars for her salary, and it would rise to 2000 dollars in the one or two years; with that, she would be able to send money to her mother and children in Cambodia. No sooner had she heard that than she decided to go to work there for one or two years, hoping to earn money for her family. Therefore, she agreed to follow the trafficker. The trafficker later prepared all the required documents, including archive, passport, visa, and plane ticket to China about three weeks before they left for China. Obviously, this point is different from the trafficking through marriage due to the fact that the victim and her family do not receive any money from the broker and the trafficker accompanies the victim on the plane, ignoring all the Cambodian or Chinese authorities.
“Cold and hungry, they finally reached the consulate at 9pm. Once they saw the Cambodian flag there, they went to hug its pole, wiping their tear and hoping that they would be able to go back to Cambodia. Yet, the security guards did not allow them to enter the consulate.When it got darker, two kind Chinese elders gave them some food, which helped them get through another night.”
“When the morning came, they went into the consulate and asked for help. In contrast, one of the Cambodian woman officials blamed them. “You wanted their money too much” said that official, “Now, go back to where you came from, and don’t show me the crocodile’s tear. If you don’t go, I’ll call the police to arrest you”. Then, a Chinese woman official mocked to that Cambodian woman official in English that “Party!””
According to the victim, she met other nine Cambodian women accompanied by the same trafficker on the same plane when she got on it. When they arrived in Shanghai, she and the other nine Cambodian women got off the same plane with the trafficker and found two members of the Chinese trafficker’s group, a man and a woman, waiting to pick them up. They brought all the women to a house and took away their passports, saying that they would be used for obtaining the other necessary papers for them to be in China. Then the traffickers brought them to Lork Phing, a district in the northern part of China. It was very cold and cloudy there. They put all the newly arriving women in a room, away from the ones who had been there before them. One of the two traffickers, the Cambodian woman who spoke Chinese fluently, told them that they would not offered any job unless they married Chinese men there first. If anyone refused and wanted to return to Cambodia, she had to pay them 3,000 US dollars. They said they had spent the same amount of money on bring each of them here. None of the women dared to refuse since they did not have money to pay the traffickers back.
As the victim continued with her narration, she reported that as soon as they were put in that room, she began to be aware that she was cheated and sold. In the next two days, many Chinese men came to look at the women, pointed at the woman they liked, and took her away with them. Again, none of the women dared to reject, as all of them were afraid that they would be beaten. Then one day, her turn came. A Chinese man chose her, and when she saw he handed a bunch of Chinese money with bright red color, which might worth about 15,000 USD, to the traffickers, she realized that she was really trafficked. That Chinese man, who would become her husband, also lived in Lork Phing. He was a farmer, who planted vegetables for living. While she was living with that man, she had to do all the housework and also collect the excrement and the urine from the neighbor houses for fertilizer which stank. It was a bad condition for her, and the cold weather often caused her nosebleeds. To her, all those chores were so much harder than her job in Cambodia. In terms of sexual relations, her husband always had sex with her anytime he wanted; no matter day or night. In average, he forced her to have sex with her 5 or 6 times per day. One week later, she found that she could no longer put up with such abuse, and accordingly, argued and had a fight with him. After that, he brought her to the traffickers, who were still in Lork Phing, and complained to them. Finally, he sold her back to the traffickers for nearly half of the original price.
Next, she was put back in to the room (the one where she was put in when she had just arrived in the same house), just to discover that some of the women who came before her arrival in China, were sold back to the traffickers too. Some of them were pregnant while others had been sold back for a lower price. At that time, she got the phone number of the Cambodian consulate from a pregnant woman. Two days later, another Chinese man bought her and brought her to his home. However, the traffickers still kept her passport to guarantee that she could not run away from them. This man, who worked as a construction worker, really wanted her to be his wife. He bought her a smart phone and laptop, and allowed her to contact her mother. He insisted on her asking her mother to send the paper that verify that she is single (not married) so that they could get married, but she did not, stating that she did not want to live in China. Consequently, her second husband forced her to do the housework and locked her in the third floor of the house. One day, while she was taking a bath, he came into the bathroom, and forced her to have sex with him. They fought, and his father came to help her once he heard that.
Meanwhile, her mother in Cambodia was so worried about her and filed reports to many anti-human trafficking NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hoping that it would help her daughter returning to Cambodia. In ten days, the victim of this case coaxed another victim into running away with her and coming back to Cambodia by air. Compared to the victim of this case, the other victim was much more miserable, being seriously beaten by both her husband and mother-in-law, and forced to have sex until she came down with menorrhagia (the condition which there is blood coming out of the vagina). The two women ran away from the houses, and tried to escape by the train. Yet, they did not manage to even leave Lork Phing when they were caught by a group of Chinese police officers on the train. They sent the two victims back by accompanying after having found that neither of them had passports. When it got to this point, the victim of the case told me [author] that they knew those police officers seemed to have some sort of relationship with the traffickers by just looking at their faces (Cambodian women). The officers approached them and asked for their passport immediately, for without passports they have to send any victim back home to document their divorce.
Fortunately, in the train back home, the two victims met another police officer, who spoke some English, and told the other victim that if they did not got out of this train now, they would be back to their hell, with no more hope to be saved. The two women, accordingly, risked their life and jump out of the train, which was about two meters from the ground, while the training was slowing down to stop each station. They walked into a forest and continued their journey without an end in mind. The only thing they could find to eat was some ice [after snowing] on the ground. After a night with no meal, they found a bus. They use all their remaining money to pay for it so that they could go to the Cambodian Consulate in Shanghai.
Cold and hungry, they finally reached the consulate at 9pm. Once they saw the Cambodian flag there, they went to hug its pole, wiping their tear and hoping that they would be able to go back to Cambodia. Yet, the security guards did not allow them to enter the consulate. When it got darker, two kind Chinese elders gave them some food, which helped them get through another night. When the morning came, they went into the consulate and asked for help. In contrast, one of the Cambodian woman officials blamed them. “You wanted their money too much” said that official, “Now, go back to where you came from, and don’t show me the crocodile’s tear. If you don’t go, I’ll call the police to arrest you”. Then, a Chinese woman official mocked to that Cambodian woman official in English that “Party!” At that point in time, the two women knelt before those officials and tried to explain to them they had been trafficked, but they did not listen or care about them. The Cambodian woman official simply gave them some money for the train fee to get back to where they came. The two hopeless women walked to the train station, where they were saved by an NGO officer. The officer liaised with the consulate in order to send them back to Cambodia. When the two victims arrived at the airport in Cambodia, four police officers called them in to a room and tried to force the two women to pay them 2,000 US dollars, but they did not succeed. Then the NGO worker and their mothers came to get them. Filled with incomparable joy, the two women hugged their mothers and swore to never leave Cambodia.
Eventually, the victim added that there are many other victims who are living miserable lives. Some of them want her to help them, but she cannot afford it. Some could no longer put up with their horrible condition and have attempted to commit suicide. Most of their husbands are the poor, who could not afford to marry Chinese women; only a few are good men.
- To deal with the systematic human trafficking of Cambodian citizens to China, the approval of papers and local authorities related to Cambodia-China marriage and employment should be restricted, especially at the airports. Apparently, the traffickers seem to have cooperated with some of the authorities as the result of bribery and corruption. To temporarily abort the marriage or employment is an ideal method, as it is hard to solve the problems caused by them when they take place. Corruption and bribery also exist among Chinese authorities, which allow the traffickers to carry on with their business. According to the report of the Ministry of Interior in 2013, the number of intervened case had fallen from 135 in 2012 to 93 in 2013. Still, this decrease cannot be taken as evidence the decrease in number of cases of human trafficking, as it has never had clear and accurate statistics.
- The Royal Government, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, should help the victims of human trafficking in China, who has been force to work hard and to be sex slaves, return to their home, and establish the measures and penalty for the diplomats and consular officials who discriminate against their own compatriots. Otherwise, it will result in enmity between the two nations.
- In the meantime, the local anti-human trafficking NGOs should target their aid to the victims who have been trafficked to China by seeking partner NGOs in China in order to provide support to victims of trafficking there. Furthermore, propagation of awareness and education in communities need to be expanded for women to fight trafficking.
- The local media should raise awareness of the consequences of human trafficking, and of anti-human trafficking laws. In addition, there should be programs featuring interviews with victims about their experience in order to send the message to the viewers, listeners, and readers that “If someone persuades you to work in China, you will be trafficked!”
- As the matter of fact, human trafficking to China under the image of marriage and employment which is easily approved by the local authorities often is a sore spot for some legal march-maker Korean companies, who find out problematic and contentious. Are the friendly political relations between China and Cambodia creating the conditions for the suffering of trafficked Cambodian women? Throughout history, the Chinese and the Cambodians have had been marked by fraternity and intermarriage; as the proof, many Cambodian citizens of are of part Chinese descent. Based on the 2010 census in China, of it 1.3 billion population, the number of Chinese men outnumbers that of Chinese women by around 34 million. In Cambodia, on the other hand, the population is around 13.4 million while the number Cambodian women is 360,000 higher than that of Cambodian men (2008 census). This symbiotic asymmetry in gender ratios between the two countries may lend suggestion to the conduciveness of marriage between Cambodian women and Chinese men, but it should be done according the tradition in which the bridegroom and his family have to properly propose to the bride’s family. They also have to give her the right to come home to pay visit to her relatives and work or do business in either Cambodia or China, rather than cheating her, selling her, and abusing her as if she were an animal.
Tong Soprach is a social-affairs columnist for the Post’s Khmer edition.