2 Vietnam teenagers escape slave labor at gold mines

By Hoang Son, Thanh Nien News

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Pham Van Hao, 17, (left) and Pham Van Cuong, 19, at Quang Nam Province’s child support center after escaping from slave labor conditions at a local gold mine. Photo by Hoang Son

Two teenagers forced to work as
slave labor in private gold mines in the central province of Quang Nam escaped last week and have been taken into a child support center.
Pham Van Hao, 17, and Pham Van Cuong, 19, of  the northern province of Thanh Hoa said they had planned in advance to escape on March 27, and 10 of them ate dinner and fled into a jungle hoping to find their way home later.
But they were caught and caned by the mine foremen the next day, only managing to escape after some locals intervened.
They hid in the jungle, coming out to nearby houses for food and a place to sleep until the police fetched them the next day, Cuong said.
The other eight have gone home or are looking for another place to work.
Cuong said they had earlier escaped from another mine after one month.
Hao said they and 40 others were introduced by a man in their hometown, Anh, to work at the first mine in Phuoc Thanh commune, Phuoc Son District, on February 19.
It was situated deep in the jungle, and the laborers had to work under strict surveillance and constant threats.
They were promised around VND4 million (US$190) a month, but the 10 of them asked to quit since the work was very arduous and involved staying underground from 6 pm to 5 am.
But since their contracts said wages would only be paid every six months, they got nothing for the one month.
Then a man offered them jobs at another mine in Phu Ninh District.
Hao said: “We were forced to dig day and night. It was a very arduous job. Now I just want to go home.” He is under treatment for malaria he caught while working.
Hao said some six other young workers are still at the mine.
Both boys look pale and small for their ages.
The center is trying to contact their families.
Cuong is the youngest in family of nine children while Hao has one younger sibling.
Both dropped out of school before graduating since their families could not afford the fees and needed them to earn wages.
Nguyen The Anh, deputy director of the center, said the two were brought in a state of panic and exhaustion.
He said local authorities need to prevent such exploitation at local gold mines, adding his center has helped many victims return home.

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