Child slavery in Vietnam metro

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Vinh, 9, sells lottery tickets at a pub in Ho Chi Minh City on the night of December 12. He had a bad night, not selling many, for which he received a beating from his boss, who confiscates all his earnings

The phrase social welfare has taken on an ironic meaning in Ho Chi Minh City, where for years now, many children and elderly persons have been forced to work as street vendors with no pay.

Children in the city are made to walk the streets selling lottery tickets, often through the night. They are routinely beaten if they refuse or do not sell enough. They are not allowed to keep any of the money they earn.

That has been the case in the city for many years now, according to Monday report in Tuoi Tre, which detailed child slavery operations in Districts 5, 8 and 10.

One operation, run by a man named Hung and a woman named Thu, enslaves four orphans aged 6, 9, 10 and 12.

The children are dropped off on the street each evening and instructed to solicit customers at local pubs all night long. Tuong, 10, the skinniest of the four, was given a bicycle to ride.

Tuoi Tre witnessed Hung and Thu waiting for the children to return with their earnings at the corner of Bong Sao and Ta Quang Buu Streets in District 5 on the night of December 12.

Each child was given a cell phone so that they could be summoned to a new location every several hours and to handover whatever they had earned so far.

Vinh, 9, received several slaps to his face when he said he had not been able to sell many lottery tickets. The man took him to a darker corner and continued beating him despite the presence of several passers-by within sight.

Though Hung and Thu had appeared cheerful while awaiting the children, Hung reportedly beat Vinh several times that night as punishment for his poor sales performance.

The children were not given rest breaks or food, until they were returned to their rent room in Nha Be District at around 3 a.m., when all the pubs had closed and even then, they were only given water.

And then there are the operations which take advantage of disabled children, forcing them to work because their disabilities inspire people's pity.

A man named Quan and a woman named Lien force Linh, 6, an orphan, and a paralyzed 14-year old boy to sell lottery tickets in Districts 5 and 11.

The boy has cerebral palsy and is made to sit in his wheelchair with Linh by his side, while Quan and Lien watch from around 20 meters away, signaling for Linh to bring them the money they earn every so often.

Their ploy has earned them a lot of money, as many people, feeling pity for the boy, do not even take lottery tickets, but rather donate cash of up to ten dollars or more.

Child vendors are known to collect as much as a million dong (US$48) a day each.

Residents of District 10's Le Hong Phong Street said Quan and Lien have been renting a house there for more than eight months now, housing more than ten children they force to sell lottery tickets.

They said the couple only shows up at night to deliver the children to their assigned spots.

Old people have also been turned into beggars, disguising their true activity by carrying packs of toothpicks or tissue to sell.

Tam, 36, in District 12 has been employing old people to panhandle on his behalf for around six years now.

He pays the old people between VND1.5 and 2 million ($72-96) per month, saying their elderliness is sufficient to inspire pity among the public, so he does not search out those with deformities or who are obviously suffering from debilitating diseases, to avoid possible responsibility.

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