Tran Thi Mai Khoa (R) poses with Namita Masanobu and a baby she claims is their son, whom the Japanese man has allegedly taken away. File photo
Tran Thi Mai Khoa used to work at a hostel in the noisy, if not seedy, backpackers area in Ho Chi Minh City.
She once believed she had met all kinds of people and nobody could ever trick her into anything.
But now looking back at her life the last two years, the 29-year-old woman realized that she had been used as a surrogate.
By the man she loved.
Khoa said she met Namita Masanobu, 45, in 2012 when she was working.
He introduced himself as a tourist, and an unhappy man who had separated from a cheating wife.
She said Masanobu tried to win her affections and succeeded.
He left Vietnam two weeks later, but called her regularly.
“We talked every day and saw each other via webcam. Sometimes we talked through the night, which made me believe that he was really living alone,” Khoa told Thanh Nien, crying.
He then came back every several months, renting a place for Khoa, giving her money and expressing intention to marry her, she said.
“He was very into sex. He persuaded me to have a child with him. He even said he would do anything to make me pregnant.
“Now I realize it’s all a perfect deception,” she recalled.
“I let him take my son”
When Khoa told him that she was pregnant in early 2013, he asked her to keep it a secret because his wife was causing troubles during the divorce.
After she gave birth in November, Masanobu took her and the baby to the Japanese Consulate in the city and asked her to sign various papers in Japanese.
She said she did not understand a single word there, but he told her in English that the papers were to legalize their marriage and their child, so that he could bring her and the baby to Japan later.
He left again and when he came back in April last year, he asked to take the baby with him alone to see his dying parents for the last time.
He said he was in a rush and could not take her with him.
“He looked so painful and I agreed to let him take my son,” Khoa said.
She said she saw he had an extra passport, which must be for her son, then six months old.
“Since then, I have no idea where my son has been and if he has been well because he has stopped all contact with me.”
She said in the only time she managed to talk to him in September last year, Masanobu admitted that it was all a sham.
He told her that his wife is infertile, that he has never divorced her and that he will never return the baby to her, Khoa said.
She said only then that she started to ask around and learned that Masanobu had traveled to Vietnam many times before, seeking for a potential child bearer but failed.
Until he found her.
The Vietnamese woman is now seeking help to reunite with her toddler, but it will not be easy for her.
Khoa’s laywer Takashi Maruyama has found out for her that her son is now bearing a Japanese name and officially a son of Masanobu and his wife.
The lawyer cannot give any further help as the couple is now in Taiwan.
Khoa has applied for a visa at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, the representative office of Taiwan in the city, but she was not granted one.
A Ho Chi Minh City investigator said they are collecting evidence to decide if it is a fraud.
“Khoa has signed various papers which she does not understand herself, so we are having to wait for responses from the Japanese consulate,” the officer told Tuoi Tre newspaper.
Nguyen Quoc Cuong, a senior officer in charge of citizenship affairs at Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice, said the case is “very complicated.”
Cuong said Vietnam’s government might have to seek diplomatic measures to solve the matter.
Lawyer Ha Hai in Ho Chi Minh City said the Japanese man showed signs of committing marriage fraud and even child abduction.
He suggested that Khoa hire some Vietnamese lawyers and send them to Taiwan to collect more evidence, and file a plea to ask Taiwan government to ban him from leaving the country with the baby.
The lawyer said many Vietnamese women have fallen to similar deceptions because of the “legal loophole” that allows a foreign man to take a child out of Vietnam so easily.