The number of Cambodian women caught in abusive marriages in China is increasing dramatically, according to rights groups, which last year helped repatriate nearly 50 brides who had been either trafficked abroad or lured by the promise of a better life.
Local rights groups Adhoc and Licadho said Thursday that they helped 49 women return to Cambodia from China in 2014, compared to 29 the year before.
Adhoc assisted 21 of those women last year, compared to just four in 2013, said Chhan Sokunthea, head of the organization’s women’s and children’s rights program.
“These victims were lured to China with the promise of high-paying jobs and wealthy Chinese husbands,” Ms. Sokunthea said. “But they end up being sold to Chinese men—sometimes for $15,000 to $20,000—as sex slaves.”
“It is a type of human trafficking under the pretext of marriage,” she said.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for Licadho, said his organization helped bring back the other 28 women, compared to 25 in 2013.
“Most of them experienced physical and sexual abuse,” Mr. Sam Ath said, adding that he considered all of the women to be victims of trafficking.
Cambodia’s 2008 anti-human trafficking law considers the removal of a person from the country to be unlawful if it is done “by means of force, threat, deception, abuse of power, or enticement.”
“The consent of the victim…shall be irrelevant,” the law adds.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday that his ministry recorded a total of 58 women who were repatriated in 2014, but said the ministry did not have figures for the year before.
“We believe there are more victims [in China]…who went there secretly with ringleaders,” he said, adding that about 10 women have already been repatriated so far this year.
Mr. Kuong also said the rights groups’ figures overlap with those from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but insisted that the ministry’s figures be considered official.
“NGOs working on this matter just receive complaints from victims or victims’ families, but they forward the cases to us since only the Cambodian government…can deal with the relevant Chinese authorities,” he said.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on Monday that two women from Kandal and Prey Veng provinces who were forced into marriages with Chinese men were sent back to Cambodia that day.
And five more women are due to arrive in Phnom Penh at 3 p.m. today after being rescued by the Cambodian Consulate in Guangzhou, China, according to a statement from the ministry Thursday.
The women were sent by their families to marry Chinese men in Jiangxi, China, the statement says.