“My life was dark and painful. They treated me as a slave and not a human being. I don’t want other young women to become a victim like me. I am willing to share my story to prevent human trafficking in the community with Hagar if needed. I hope the broker shall be in jail so she will not have a chance to sell other women and girls again. Thanks for your support and for giving my back hope and to fight for a better future life,” Minea (real name revoked).
Minea’s dreams of a better life were shattered when she became an unfortunate victim of human trafficking. She was born the youngest daughter of a poor family in Phnom Penh. Her parents divorced when she was just a child. To make ends meet, her mother worked tirelessly as a cleaner for a construction company. However, Minea was left scrambling to financially support her family when her mother’s career unexpectedly ended due to her deteriorating health. She was forced to quit her study in Grade 7 and undertook garment factory work alongside her elder sister. Her family’s precarious financial position made her the ideal target for exploitation.
In June 2018, a broker named Ly Sav Fong preyed on Minea and trafficked her to China under the pretence that she would marry a rich Chinese man and would work a better-paying job to support her family. The broker scammed Mine’s already financially-crippled family for USD3,000, who were under the illusion that it was a dowry. What followed was a blood-curdling nightmare no one should endure.
Upon entering China, Minea was sold to a man who kept her prisoner in his house. Here she was repeatedly raped and subjected to horrific physical violence. Minea finally escaped and alerted the local broker, desperate for help. Instead, she was met with unbelievably cruel hostility, beaten by the broker’s mother-in-law, and starved for three days. Completely isolated and fearing for her life, Minea complied with her captor’s demands and agreed to be sold to another man. Similar horrors greeted her as she was again enslaved, brutally raped, physically abused, and restricted food.
Minea fled her captors once again and thought she had finally found safety when she found illegal work at a garment factory. Here, she found solace in the company of a fellow Cambodian woman who offered to assist her in returning home. But Minea’s hopes were tragically shattered when she was once sold to a third man who subjected her to unimaginable sexual and physical abuse. She was left to suffer without proper food or medical care, her body and spirit broken by the savagery of her captors.
With all the strength within her, Minea escaped again and was soon apprehended by local authorities. She was sent to a detention centre for over four months for being an illegal immigrant. In April 2021, Minea was finally sent home by the Cambodian Embassy in China with only the clothes on her back. Upon arrival, she was referred by the Ministry of Social Affairs to Hagar for support services.
After undergoing quarantine with two other survivors who had similar experiences to hers, Minea was invited to stay at the “Home of Love” by Hagar. Hagar’s foster mother warmly welcomed her and the other survivors. Minea built trust and established strong relationships with the other women and Hagar’s foster mother during her stay at the Home of Love. Upon experiencing tenderness and compassion for the first time in years, Minea’s spirit has risen.
“Foster mother at the Home of Love is like my second mother. She gave me love and care for me. And I love her. For a long time, I lost my hope, trust, and love, and now I feel them,” Minea told Hagar staff.
Despite going through life-altering trauma, Minea had never disclosed her harrowing experience to her family. After undergoing extensive medical checkups and comprehensive family assessment, she reunited with her mother and sister. Her mother had been greatly physically and mentally affected by Minea’s disappearance. Hagar supported Minea’s mother in getting the right mental health treatment. Through Hagar’s rehabilitation program, Minea has evolved from a deeply traumatised person to a now strong 22-year-old who is committed to forging a promising future for herself. Today, she is not only a survivor of human trafficking but a fierce advocate of justice on behalf of others who have experienced similarly tortuous ordeals.
“My mother and sister are very happy that I got justice. Words cannot describe how I feel, and to thanks Hagar for supporting us. I wish the perpetrators arrested and sent to jail. I have been waiting, and now my dream has come true. I get justice, and I believe they will not have a chance to hurt other young women again.” Minea said with tears in her eyes.
With the support of Hagar’s legal team, Minea heroically filed a complaint against the broker who had subjected her to unimaginable depravity by selling her to various men. Minea persisted in the pursuit of justice and worked with Hagar to prepare for the trial. In July 2022, the broker La Sav Fong, who was pregnant at the time of trial, was charged with human trafficking and drug dealing and sentenced to seven years in prison. Hagar’s legal team consistently supported her in the lead-up to the trial, giving Minea the strength and courage to testify in court and advocate for justice. On January 5, 2023, Hagar’s lawyers defended Minea and other victims at the Phoem Phem Municipal Court trial. The verdict was delivered on January 19, 2023, with the main perpetrator Bon Sreyleak, sentenced to 10 years in prison. Minea finally got justice for the heinous crimes committed against her.
“Since the perpetrators are in prison, I now feel safe and at peace. I will build my new life, a life that I hope will be better. I have learned, and I going to work as Chinses translator. I am committed to helping other women when Hagar needs me. Thank you very much, Hagar, for all your support,” Minea added.
Minea feels relief and is finally at peace with her perpetrators safely behind bars. As appalling as Minea’s experience with human trafficking is, it’s sadly not uncommon. Human trafficking is a devastating reality for approximately 49.6 million people worldwide. Every person enslaved, every woman beaten, and every girl forced into early marriage is a tragedy that must be addressed. While freedom is the crucial first step, it is not enough. Survivors of human trafficking receive comprehensive support to break free from the cycle of trauma and rebuild their lives.
We must all take action to fight human trafficking and support survivors like Minea. Whether it’s through supporting organisations like Hagar, advocating for stronger laws and policies to prevent trafficking and protect survivors or simply being aware of the signs of trafficking and reporting suspicious activity, we can all make a difference.
Hagar pursues the highest degree of care and protection for each of its clients. To protect the identity of our clients, names have been changed and images do not necessarily represent the individual profiled.