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Cambodian teen rescued from family home in China after Facebook plea

Facebook. (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 13, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Chinese authorities rescued a 16-year-old Cambodian girl who said she was tricked by job brokers, sold to a Chinese man and held against her will in China’s Zhejiang province, a Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Radio Free Asia on Monday.

Police went to a family home on Sunday after the girl posted a video and a written message on Facebook seeking help from Cambodian authorities, spokesman Chum Suntory said. The Cambodian consul in Shanghai informed police and accompanied authorities to the home, he said. 

The girl told RFA she faced regular beatings and insults and was forced to have sex with the man who declared he hoped to get her pregnant. At times, she was locked in her room, she said.

“I couldn’t go anywhere. I would eat and then they would chase me back into the room,” she said on Facebook Messenger to RFA. “I was worse than a prisoner. I couldn’t think of anything or do anything, but just sit and cry alone.”

Cambodian women and girls are often “coerced and forced into arranged and forced marriages” in China through various means, including through the false promise of a job, according to a 2022 report from the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

The girl, from eastern Tbong Khmum province, said she and three of her friends were told by brokers in August that they could work at a market in China and earn US$700 a month – about four times the average Cambodian’s monthly earnings.

The girl and her friends were taken from Phnom Penh by car through Vietnam into China, she said.

Threatened by family members

When they arrived in China, they were taken into a room that held many other Cambodian and Vietnamese girls and women. 

They were put up for sale, and one Chinese man paid money for her, the girl said. Her three friends were sold separately, she said.

The girl was kept at the Zhejiang province home – which included the man and his relatives – for more than six months. The man’s family members threatened to harm her if she reported the case to authorities or contacted her family in Cambodia for help, she said.

The girl is cooperating with Chinese investigators and is being held in a safe place under the care of Cambodian consulate officials, Chum Suntory told RFA in a Telegram message. She will be returned to Cambodia soon, he said.

Am Sam Ath of human rights group Licadho said Cambodian government officials and police need to do more to stop Cambodian women from being lured into vulnerable situations abroad.

“And this is the role of the embassy that should hurry up to help its citizens,” he said in an interview with RFA before Sunday’s rescue.