Sopheap was born in Cambodia and enslaved into forced begging in Vietnam, then suffered physical abuse at the hands of minders. Children from impoverished families in Cambodia are vulnerable to forced labor, often with the complicity of their families, including in domestic servitude and forced begging or street vending in Thailand and Vietnam.
There are an estimated 421,000 people living in modern slavery in Vietnam (GSI 2018). Many children from impoverished rural areas, and a rising number from middle class and urban settings, are subjected to sex trafficking. Girls from ethnic minority communities in the northwest highlands are increasingly subjected to forced services, including sex slavery and domestic servitude, by traffickers channeling their criminal activities through the traditional practice of bride kidnapping. Child sex tourists, reportedly from elsewhere in Asia, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States, exploit children in Vietnam. 12-year-old May, a member of the Hmong ethnic group from northern Vietnam’s mountainous Ha Giang province, was a victim of of ‘hai pu’ (literally “pull wife”) or bride kidnapping. Although illegal in Vietnam, bride kidnapping is regularly practised in Hmong communities. May’s new husband, Pao, the boy who kidnapped her, is also 12 years old and works across the border in China as a labourer. May did not know him before the kidnapping.