25-year-old Lao woman from near the capital Vientiane was trafficked to central China’s Hunan Province in late 2018 and sold to a Chinese man for $20,000. She issued an appeal through social media for help getting home and gave an interview to RFA’s Lao Service on April 30, describing how she was misled by traffickers, including a relative, to expect a relatively high-paying job in China, taken across the Lao-China border illegally, married off to a Chinese man who bought her, and then left to fend for herself without proper travel documents. On the same day that RFA spoke to the woman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her and her family from traffickers, twelve young Lao women, including two that authorities believe were under the age of 18, were rescued from a karaoke bar in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat. The woman stranded in Hunan is among 3,000 Laotians known to have been trafficked to China in recent years according to the Lao National Anti-Human Trafficking Commission, which said last October that only 600 of those women have returned home.
RFA: How did you end up in China?
A: They, the traffickers, lied to me. I came here without any documents. I don’t have ID and I don’t have a passport. They drove me to somewhere near the Boten border gate, then took me across a mountain border.
RFA: So, you crossed the border illegally?
A: Yes, they illegally took me across a mountain, not through the border check point.
RFA: Why did you go with them? What did they say to you?
A: They said they’ll take me here to work. It’s easy; I can go home anytime. If I want to go home, they’ll take me home. I believed them. But once they sold me to a Chinese man who later became my husband, I couldn’t contact them anymore. I didn’t receive any money. I can’t go home because I have nothing in the way of documents.
RFA: Did you report this to Lao police?
A: My family is too afraid to contact police because they (the traffickers) are now in Laos.
RFA: Who are the traffickers?
A: One of them is a Lao woman who told me that she had relatives in China, and said that work in China was not heavy. I thought I’d make a lot of money, then send it to my mother.
RFA: Did they the traffickers talk to your family first?
A: Yes, they talked to my mother. Actually, one of the traffickers is my relative.
RFA: Is your relative a middle-man or -woman?
A: Yes, she is actually the ‘small wife’ (misstress) of a Chinese man who brought me here to China.
RFA: What happened to you in China?
A: They sold me to a Chinese man who wanted to have a Lao wife.
RFA: How does your husband treat you?
A: We lived together as a normal couple, and sometimes I’d go to work. But later, when I wanted to go back home, I couldn’t and I could not contact those front men at all.
RFA: Why can’t you go home?
A: Because I don’t have any documents. That’s why I’m asking for help from an organization called ‘Sisters for Laotians’.
RFA: Are there any other victims like you in China?
A: Three of us came together. One of us, who is my cousin, was able to escape last month, and now she is already in Laos. The other woman is also trying to escape as well. There are many other Laotians around here. Most of them are illegal. Some have passports, but the passports are expired, so they became illegal now.
RFA: How do you communicate with your husband?
A: I don’t speak Chinese, so, we use a telephone (app) to translate.
RFA: Do you personally know the traffickers?
A: Yes, I know them, but I can’t contact them now.
RFA: What are you going to do once you get home?
A: I’m going to report to the police that the traffickers promised me that I’ll get a salary of more than 1,000 Yuan ($150) a month. I now get nothing.
RFA: How much were you sold for?
A: For 130,000 yuan ($20,000), but some others may fetch 150,000 Yuan. I received no money, and I don’t have any money to send to my mother. My relative at home has asked for money from the traffickers many times; but they keep saying “next month; next month.”
RFA: Why didn’t you report this to Chinese police?
A: The police would send me back to my husband. That’s why I’m requesting help from Lao authorities and hoping they can get me home safely. (RFA)