Tearful reunion between by Lê Thị Lan (centre) and her mother. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Oanh
by Nguyễn Oanh & Mai Hiên
NGHỆ AN — On Thursday afternoon at the one-floor house of Nguyễn Thị Liên’s family in Nghệ An Province’s Nghi Lộc District, things were a little more crowded than usual.
Relatives and neighbours were packed in, as this was the day a very special person would return home.
For 24 years Liên had not seen her daughter Lê Thị Lan after she had been trafficked to China.
The weather outside may have been scorching hot, but nobody was leaving. This was a special day, a day to remember.
Lan hardly had chance to get out of the car before her mother held her tight. This time, she didn’t want to let go.
“I thought that I would never see her again,” 69-year-old Liên said as tears rolled down her cheek.
“I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept thinking of the moment my daughter come back,” she said.
“My family want to express our sincere thanks to the media who have helped spread news about my daughter that lead to the reunion.”
Nguyễn Thị Thu, Liên’s neighbour, said she and other residents in the locality thought she was no longer alive.
“We couldn’t believe that Lan would return home. Everyone is very happy and congratulating Lan’s family,” she said.
Being the eldest child in a poor family of six children, when she was 19, Lan went to work as hired labour in Nghĩa Đàn (another district in Nghệ An Province) to support the family.
But she was tricked and taken to neighbouring Thanh Hóa Province before transported to China’s Guangxi Province and sold to a 65-year-old man for VNĐ7 million (US$300).
After 13 years living together with him, Lan had four children with that man, three daughters and a son.
During that time, Lan was regularly beaten and abused by her husband. She tried to flee many time but did not succeed. She even locked up in a dark room.
She was given drugs so that she gradually loss her memory.
Then, Lan was sold to another man, who she has been living for 11 years now.
This man, who is 43 years, treated her very well.
Two years ago, Lan asked her husband to allow her to return hometown in Việt Nam. Her husband accepted and even gave her some money but she was tricked out of her cash and never made it home.
Early in July, Lan met a Vietnamese woman who was living in China. This proved to be a turning point as that woman, from Hòa Bình Province, helped uploaded a video of Lan on Facebook with the hope that she could contact with her family.
The video was widely shared and seen by Đặng Thị Thảo, Lan’s sister-in-law.
Although the woman spoke Vietnamese not fluently, she still remembered the names of her parents, her hometown and expresses her desire to return to her family, Thảo recalled.
"At first I did not recognise her, but when I heard she talk about the home address, the names of parents, sisters and brothers, I knew it was my sister-in-law," she said.
Once it was confirmed that the woman in the video was Lan, the family reached out and helped Lan recover her memory.
The family has reported the incident to the police with the hope that authorities would do their best to bring Lan back to Việt Nam as soon as possible.
Lê Thị Lan with her neighbours in her mother’s house in Nghệ An Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Oanh
After Lan disappeared, the family looked for her without success, recalled Liên, Lan’s mother.
She also said revealed Lan’s father died four years after that, partly due to illness caused by losing his daughter.
He passed away never knowing his daughter would one day return home.
Nguyễn Thanh Hải, deputy head of criminal police division from Nghệ An Province’s Police Department said after receiving the information from her family and through professional work, the division contacted Lan.
It was not easy to communicate with her because she was sold more than once, he said.
“We persistently encouraged and set up a contact group between the family, the police and Lan. Gradually, Lan trusted the Vietnamese agency and the Chinese authorities.”
Only then, could we only bring Lan back home,” he said.
Nghệ An police and authorities were trying to find and support victims returning to their homeland, he said.
Regarding to Lan’s case, the provincial police department would collect documents and verify her testimony to continue the investigation.
Statistics from the criminal police division showed between 12-14 human trafficking cases occurred in the province each year. About 90 percent of victims were trafficking to China and forced to be sex workers or told to marry foreign men.
From November 2015 to April 2018, 34 human trafficking cases were detected resulting in the arrest of 57 suspects. — VNS