Garment factory owner accused of molesting child workers

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Four girls 13 to 17 years of age were forced to work 16 hours a day at a garment factory in Ho Chi Minh City and were sexually abused by the boss, Tuoi Tre newspaper has reported.

The report, made following a reader's tipoff, identifies the boss as D.P.Th, a 43-year-old man who Monday admitted to indulging in offensive behavior with his female employees at the factory in Tan Binh District when he was drunk.

Police have said they are considering the possibility of child molestation and gathering further evidence. The legal working age in Vietnam is 18.

"The house was small, the boss and his wife sleep near the door and we sleep next to them," said one of the girls named L.T.T., 13.

She said she and others were molested by the boss at night. One of them B.T.T., 14, told his wife, but he beat her and slapped her on the face.

This second girl, from the northern province of Bac Giang, said she reported the problem after suffering molestation for many months, beginning a couple weeks after her arrival in May last year. She could bear it no longer, the girl said.

Investigation into the factory began after Chu Thi Thi, a Tuoi Tre reader from neighboing Binh Duong province reported the situation.

L.T.T. escaped from the factory on Sunday and her family approached Thi, a volunteer who used to be T.'s teacher at their hometown in Bac Giang.

The girl said she and others, including three boys around her age, had to work from 6 a.m. to midnight and had no days off.

She started working for Th. in February this year after he promised to her parents a payment of VND15 million (US$770) after two years.

In recent weeks, the children were allowed to stop working at 9 p.m. on Sunday but there was no change to the poor meals and regular beatings if they did the work wrongly or slowly, she said.

The children had earlier made phone calls to their families. When the families came to fetch their children on Saturday, the boss said they had to pay VND10 million ($513) for each child they wanted to take back.

V., the boss' wife, told Tuoi Tre the children "only" worked 14 hours a day and her husband did beat them when they talked back to him because he could not contain his anger.

The woman also admitted that her husband had molestated the girls, but said it only happened once when he was drunk and mistook the girls for her.

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