Around 80 teenaged girls have gone missing from a single commune in Vietnam's northwestern province of Lao Cai bordering China since 2008.
A practice among the H'mong ethnic people there of allowing a boy to "kidnap" a girl he loves and take her home before asking her parents for her hand is not helping matters, according to the police.
The Thao & Van Hoa (Sports & Culture) newspaper quoted the police as saying that in Ban Pho Commune, Bac Ha District, 23 H'mong girls had disappeared "mysteriously" in 2009 alone.
Ly Seo Plau, the commune police chief, explaining the practice, said after three days, if the boy wants to marry the girl, he goes to the girl's house with some offerings to seek her parents' permission.
A majority of the missing girls' parents reported to the police after three days when they did not return home.
The police searched for the girls, but to no avail, he said.
They may have been lured to China by human traffickers who posed as men seeking wives, and forced into prostitution or forced labor, or sold to Chinese men as wives, he said.
Two women from the commune, aged 17 and 28, who had been tricked into going to China, managed to escape from brothels where they had been tortured.
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