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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Victims of marriage scam return

Victims of marriage scam return

NGO brings home Cambodian women sold into factories.

FIVE Cambodian women who entered into sham marriages after travelling to Taiwan to look for work, and who were later sold to factory owners, returned to the Kingdom earlier this month after an international NGO intervened on their behalf.

The women, who had been working in Taiwan for between one and three years, were told that they needed to marry Taiwanese nationals in order to find work. When they consented to the marriages, which were not legally valid, their "husbands" sold them into factory labour, said Ya Navuth, executive director of the Cambodian chapter of the NGO Coordination of Action Research on Aids and Mobility (Caram), in an interview with the Post Thursday.

Ya Navuth coordinated with Caram's Taiwan chapter to secure the women's return.

"Now they have come safely home," he said. "We are trying to explain to them that they should not feel afraid or ashamed so that they don't do something bad to themselves, like commit suicide."

Hopes of money abroad

Dy Sedeth, 22, one of the five women, said she stopped attending school in seventh grade, at which point she went to Vietnam with plans to eventually travel to Taiwan to earn money for her family.

The factory job she was sold into required her to work long hours under strenuous conditions. "Before that I had never even carried heavy luggage," she said in an interview Thursday.

Dy Sedeth said she believed she needed to endure the labour or risk being sold into prostitution, so she stayed at the factory for more than two years before she was employed at a restaurant.

Eventually, Catholic nuns discovered her and helped her get in touch with Caram, she said.

I still worry about Cambodian women who work in other countries. 

"My parents and relatives are very happy I'm back. They don't look down on me, and they pity me that I had to live in a hell for a long time."

Citing figures provided by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, Ya Navuth said there are more than 5,000 Cambodian women working in Taiwan. He called on the Cambodian government to monitor more closely citizens working overseas, especially where the issue [of the abuse of foreign workers] was common.

"I still worry about Cambodian women who work in other countries, especially in Taiwan," Dy Sedeth said.

"They don't know how to contact an agent for help, and so they can't come back home."




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