Tuesday, March 03, 2009


There's a new and frightening twist to my tales of child trafficking here in Vietnam...

For some years now, Blue Dragon has been rescuing trafficked children and doing our best to disable the trafficking rings. We've had some good success although it's been long, slow work. Our focus has been children from Hue, in central Vietnam, who have been taken to Saigon to work on the streets or in garment factories.

Up until now, the traffickers have simply relied on deceit to get parents to hand their children over. They've promised training, an education, a free flow of money... all lies, but very persuasive. The families they target live in extreme poverty, often in tents or shacks erected on sand.

Things are different now: the families and communities are fully aware of the traffickers, they know about their lies and they refuse to sell their children. The traffickers don't have such an easy job any more.

In response, the traffickers appear to have suddenly started something new: taking the children without anybody's knowledge or permission.

There are 4 families in Hue, all living in terrible conditions, who each lost one child on one day about 2 weeks ago. The parents went out fishing on the sea, and when they returned their child was gone. No explanation. But now there are reports that the 4 children have turned up in Saigon, working in a garment factory...

I hesitate to call this kidnapping, because I don't have all the facts yet. There's not much chance that the children ran away: they wouldn't have the resources to travel 600kms and then find a factory! But maybe they agreed to go with the traffickers - which is still a dubious explanation. They're all under 16, so the traffickers knew that they'd need the parents' consent.

I'm not sure how this story is going to end. Too much doesn't make sense yet. Our lawyer, Van, is in Saigon now looking for the children, and we do have reason to hope he will find them. But Saigon is a large city... And the traffickers are not going to be happy to see him.

I hope to have some news tonight or on Wednesday. Here's hoping it's good news.