Van at the age of 16.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Van’s family, in Kham Thien district, Hanoi, was extremely happy to see their relative again after 21 years of going missing.
In 1992, Van was 16 years old. She was a high-school student. In her class, Van was a pretty and early-developed girl compared to others. Many boys liked her very much and flirted with her. As a result, Van could not focus her mind on study. She spent most of her time in going out with her friends.
One day, Van returned home after mid-night. Her mother did not open the door for her. After that night, Van went missing. The family tried their best to search for her but their effort failed.
Van’s mother, Vu Thi Ha, felt regret for having unsuitable educating methods and indirectly caused her to be missing. “At that time I thought my daughter got corrupted. Today it is not so serious,” Ha said.
Not being allowed to get in her house, Van went to a karaoke bar with her friends, where she met a woman named Thanh, who entangled Van and her friends to go to Lang Son, a northern border province.
Going to Lang Son, Van and her friends entered a karaoke bar to sing and drink beer. The next morning, Van got up and was frightened to know that she and three other girls in her group were in a house in China.
The woman named Thanh told the four girls to get married Chinese men. She recommended old men of 70-80 years old to them.
Van did not agree, saying that these men were as old as her grandfather. Van was beaten and forced to kneel on jackfruit thorns, on bowl bottoms until her knees bled. The three other girls were afraid of whipping so they agreed to marry old men.
Several days later, they introduced a man of around 70 years old to Van and placed a bowl of rice and a bowl of stools in front of her. They said if Van agreed to live with the old man, she could eat rice, otherwise she had to eat feces. “I decidedly did not agree to marry that old man so I had to eat shit,” Van said.
The next day, five men were brought to the house, including a younger man of around 40. Van chose that man as her husband because she was afraid of having her hoof tendon cut if she kept resisting.
Van was blindfolded and transported on a car from 4am until 8pm to a remote area. She began living as a wife of that Chinese man.
After over one year, she had a child. Later on, she knew that the house where she lived was in Guangdo province.
Van asked her husband’s permission to work as a builder worker’s assistant to seek opportunity to run away. She failed to escape twice. After each failure, she was beaten by her husband. After the third try, she was chained for two weeks.
Van was lucky to meet a Vietnamese driver, who worked for a farm near her house. Van told the driver her story and asked for his help.
The driver several times drove his car through Van’s house and made Van’s family believe that his car was broken down to seek ways to rescue her but his effort failed.
Once, the driver and his five-truck team (all drivers were Vietnamese) decided to rescue Van by putting her into a cage together with pigs on a truck. The other trucks worked as blockages. Van took with her a dose of rat poison to use in case she was seized by her husband.
Running for 70km, the driver took Van out of the cage when she fainted. He left the truck and hired a cab and kept moving to the Vietnam-China border with four other drivers who worked as guards. On the way, they tried to resuscitate Van. In the next 100km, Van regained her senses.
After saying goodbye to the cab driver and four guards, the truck driver and Van traveled for three months, begging for food at many families. Finally, they arrived at the border when they were out of money. They met a kind-hearted taxi driver who took both through the border to Vietnam for free.
Returning to Vietnam, Van realized that she had no where to come because her parents were over 80 and perhaps they died. Van followed the truck driver.
The truck’s driver advised Van to go home. She gave Van some money and said: “If your parents died and your family does not accept you, you can come back to live with me.” Van returned to Kham Thien Street to seek her family.
After 21 years, Hanoi changed a lot. She asked many people the way to the small alley where her house was located before. The sixth person she asked for information was her uncle. They did not recognize each other until Van said that she was Ms. Ha’s daughter.
Van’s uncle was buying vegetables when he met with Van. The man dropped the bundle of vegetables to run to Ms. Ha’s home to tell her the good news. Ha thought that her brother told a joke. She only believed that her daughter had returned when she saw Van by her eyes.
Mr. Le Tien Dung, chief police officer of Trung Phung ward, Dong Da district, Hanoi, has verified the return of Van. He said that Van had been considered as going missing for 21 years so her name was wiped off from her family record book. The family took Van to the local police station and asked the police to add Van back into the family record book. Compiled by M. Nguyen