Vietnam: Human Trafficking

The Situation
Vietnam is a source and destination country for human trafficking.

Vietnamese men, women, and girls are trafficked for sexual and labor exploitation in Cambodia, the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic for commercial sexual exploitation. Women and men are trafficked for forced labor as factories and construction or as domestic servants. Vietnamese trafficking victims are recruited through fraudulent marriages, false promises of employment, licensed and unlicensed migrant labor recruiting agencies.1

Many Vietnamese women and girls are trafficked through Dong Tham, An Giang, and Kien Giang to Cambodia for sexual exploitation. In 2004, Cambodian police estimated that more than 50,000 girls were in brothels through Cambodia, many of whom were Vietnamese. The World Human Rights Organization and UNICEF estimate that one-third of the prostitutes in Cambodia are under the age of 18, the majority of whom are Vietnamese. 2

Vietnamese women are also recruited through fraudulent marriages. The Vietnamese Government estimates that approximately 10 percent of the arranged marriages with Chinese men may have become trafficking victims. Many women raped and abused by their husbands and in-laws. In some cases, they are sold off to other men.3

A Vietnamese NGO estimated that the average age of Vietnamese trafficking victims was between 15 and 17; other NGOs have estimated lower ages. 4   There are no reliable estimates on the number of Vietnamese who are trafficked but Chinese police stated that they rescued more than 1,800 trafficking victims on the China-Vietnam border between 2001 and 2005. 5

Vietnam is a destination country for children who are trafficked from Cambodia for sexual and labor exploitation.6

There are many causes of human trafficking in Vietnam. UNICEF argues that the causes are poverty, little education, lack of awareness of trafficking, family conflict, the demand of Chinese men for wives and the open, shared and difficult-to-police border between the two countries.7  The UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking argues that many of the causes are socio-economic, such as difficulty finding employment in rural and remote areas, lack of awareness, and low education level.8

According to the Vietnamese Supreme People’s Court, there has been a 60 percent increase in the number of trafficking cases between 2001 and 2006. One such case involved a Taiwanese couple trafficking Vietnamese women to Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore for forced labor or brokered marriages; the Government of Vietnam arrested 73 individuals in connection with this case. Another case was the 2005 arrest and 2006 conviction of former British pop star “Gary Glitter” (a.k.a. Paul Francis Gadd) for sexual acts with minors in southern Vietnam. Of the more than 700 individuals tried and 500 individuals convicted of trafficking in 2006, several received the maximum sentence.

The Vietnamese Government has begun to improve services and facilities for Vietnamese trafficking victims who have returned from abroad and funds its embassies abroad to assist and repatriate trafficking victims. The government does not adequately identify all trafficking victims in Vietnam; foreign women found in prostitution are more likely to be incarcerated than Vietnamese women. 9

The Vietnamese government continues to support an array of projects to prevent human trafficking. The government has developed a number of awareness raising projects, and vocational training for teenage girls in high-risk areas.10 The government has also created a legal handbook for judges and prosecutors and collaborated with NGOs to train law enforcement. 

International Cooperation
The Vietnamese Government signed an anti-trafficking memorandum of understanding with China and Cambodia for more cooperation in identifying victims and prosecuting traffickers.12


12007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
2  East Meets West Foundation, ADAPT Program: Research The Face of Human Trafficking
3UNICEF: The children in Viet Nam
4 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
5 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
6 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
7 UNICEF: The children in Vietnam
8UNIAP: Vietnam Overview
9 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
10 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report
11 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report
12 2006 US Department of State Human Rights Report