LAO CAI — In the rural mountains of Vietnam, young girls are disappearing from their homes with increasing regularity. Many turn up across the border, sold as wives for the price of a buffalo.


The stories of the women who end up becoming these brides are nuanced. Some are lured into China with false promises of jobs and better lives, but end up forced into marriage or even brothels to become sex slaves. Some are tricked by someone they trust – a relative, a friend, even sometimes a boyfriend who promises to marry them, but instead sells them. Some girls are drugged, then taken across the border.


Out of the six thousand victims identified by Vietnam’s Department of General Police, only around 600 have returned to Vietnam.


These are the stories of those who were able to escape, and of mothers whose daughters are still missing.


June 2018. 

Tien, 21, was kidnapped and sold to human traffickers in China when she was only 16 years old. She wants to become a social worker to help other people.

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Mai was in her 20s when she was sold by her boyfriend. She was sold at least five times while in China, where she suffered major mental and physical abuse. Her trafficker and tormentors still walk free.



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Sung Thi Ku, 54, a farmer. Both of Ku's daughters were taken to China. She is wearing her second daughter’s handmade gown, the only memento she has of her girl.



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Giang Thi Su, a 40-year-old farmer. Su lost her 17-year-old daughter to a group of Chinese traffickers. She is wearing her daughter’s dress. She does not have any photos of her girl.



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“I really want to go to China [to visit my daughter] but I still have my young son,” Su said. “My husband beats me all the time and he’s really mean when he’s drunk. If I didn’t have my son, I would just leave.”



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View of the Chinese town Hekou from Lao Cai city, Vietnam. 



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Cau and her friend were kidnapped and taken to China by the friend’s aunt. Cau escaped after three months in China – her friend’s fate is unknown. 




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