After visiting the targeted sex shop in Jiangsu, China over a dozen times to prepare for the rescue of a woman named Lo Thi Then, who was forced to work as a sex slave inside, the rescuer realized that the time for action was ripe.
Working as a lawyer in Hanoi, 33-year lawyer Ta Ngoc Van has also devoted his time and efforts over the past 11 years to rescue and save nearly 400 victims of human trafficking, most of whom were forced to work as sex workers.
He discovered that the sex shop where Then was working was ‘importing new goods’, meaning women and girls.
Van realized that it was time to act because the pimps would pay more attention to guarding the new arrivals.
He recalled that he witnessed pimps abuse a new young girl so cruelly that blood covered her face because she refused to be a sex worker.
After visiting Then’s workplace to inform her of the rescue, Van pointed out that she should only run away when there was no pimp guarding the door.
“If it is impossible to run away tomorrow evening, we will repeat the rescue attempt the following evening,” Van told Then.
Van asked his Chinese friend to tell the taxi driver, whom the Vietnamese lawyer befriended days before, that he was about to take his girlfriend from the shop to return to Vietnam. The driver was not aware of the rescue.
It was raining the following evening. Few clients frequented the shop. Two pimps were sitting on the doorstep, yawning.
A taxi parked just ten meters from the sex shop with a door open and its engine running.
After 30 minutes, Then slowly walked to the glass door after receiving a client. She stood by the entrance as usual to wait for other clients.
On the other side of the road, Van gave Then a nod to signal he was well prepared.
Soon after that, one of the two pimps stood up and went inside the shop. He waved the other pimp in with him, maybe to have some food.
Then was alone at the door. She gently pushed the door to walk out as if to wave to clients, then she suddenly rushed toward the car and got in it in less than ten seconds.
The two pimps did not notice anything but pimps from other shops nearby shouted and chased the taxi.
The taxi driver turned to the highway and sped toward the local airport. After several kilometers, he overtook a long truck and turned toward an overpass to cut off potential followers.
Van asked the driver to drive on small roads parallel to the highways to divert the attention of anyone pursuing them.
Feeling rather safe, Then seemed to regain her consciousness, holding Van’s shoulder and sobbing violently.
Then recalled that she had refused to work for the sex shop after her husband in Jiangsu told her to, but he threatened to sell her kidney.
Half of the sum she received from clients went to her owners and pimps, and the other half was kept by her husband.
Some days, she was not given enough food by her husband.
Van and Then fled in the taxi the whole night and they only left it to catch a bus to head toward the Mong Cai border gate in the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh.
After spending nearly three days and nights in a taxi and on many buses, Van led Then to set foot back on the soil of Vietnam.