Cambodian woman tells tale of woe after brokered union
A Phnom Penh brothel’s red light burns ‘come hither’ following passage of the new anti-trafficking law in February.
LIKE about 5,000 other young Cambodian women, Lay Maly was promised a good job in Taiwan.
That lie, the first of many, was the beginning of a four-year ordeal that included a forced marriage and cruel exploitation by a broker who placed her in a menial position in one of the island-state's leading hospitals.
But - according to the Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (CARAM), a regional network of NGOs focusing on migration issues - Lay Maly is luckier than most. She made it home.
Cambodia, with its support for the One China policy, has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, making it especially difficult for Cambodian trafficking victims to return. For its part, the Cambodian government attempted to address the problem by banning marriages between Cambodians and foreigners earlier this year.
That move followed a report by the International Organisation for Migration on the boom in brokered, exploitative unions, particularly with South Korean men. South Korea issued 1,759 marriage visas in 2007, up from just 74 in 2004.
Lay Maly, 28, returned to Cambodia on June 19 after being released from detention in Taiwan with the aid of NGOs there working with CARAM.
"I have sworn to myself that I will do all I can to dissuade any of my siblings or relatives from wanting to work overseas," she recently told the Post. "Even if you are poor or starving, living with your family and friends is much better than being alone in a foreign country."
After Lay Maly lost her job at a garment factory in 2004, she met a broker who promised her work in a Taiwanese glass factory, and $10,000 for a three-year contract.
I CRIED ALMOST
EVERY DAY BECAUSE IT WAS HARD AND
The broker took her to Vietnam where she was forced into marriage with a Taiwanese man, enabling her to live and work in Taiwan. "There was nothing I could do to stop it," Lay Maly said, adding that her options were to marry, remunerate her broker or be killed.
Hard and disgusting work
Once in Taiwan, her husband handed her over to a Taiwanese woman who arranged for her to work at a big hospital.
"It was the National Taiwan University Hospital and I had to care for seriously ill patients," she said. "I was on-call around the clock and my duties included washing invalids who had soiled themselves, as well as feeding and dressing them. I had no holidays, and I slept in the ward. I cried almost every day because it was hard and disgusting work."
Lay Maly said she had begged the Taiwanese woman to find her work as a maid but she had refused, saying the hospital work was well paid.
"She paid me US$1,000 for the first year, $2,000 for the second year, and $3,000 for the third year," Lay Maly said, adding that after the three-year contract expired the Taiwanese woman told her to extend her visa.
"I wanted to return home but she refused to return my passport. She threw me out of her house in the middle of the night," she said.
Then she was arrested by Taiwanese immigration police for being party to a false marriage before CARAM and its partners rescued her.
CARAM's Cambodia director Ya Navuth recently said that in the first six months of 2008, his network has managed to return four women to Cambodia and four to Vietnam. "We can rescue only a few trafficked women from Taiwan because there are no diplomatic ties with Cambodia," Ya Navuth said. "The only way we can rescue them from Taiwan is with the help of NGOs."