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Revealed: Ring forces girls to arouse drinkers in cafés in southern Vietnam

Revealed: Ring forces girls to arouse drinkers in cafés in southern Vietnam

Sunday, March 29, 2015, 16:49 GMT+7

Based on three distress messages from a young woman to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s hotline on Sunday last week, a group of reporters tracked down a ring that forced young women to sexually satisfy customers in dim-light coffee shops and successfully came to the victim’s rescue on Thursday.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

A woman named D., 23, who hails from the north-central province of Thanh Hoa, managed to send three SMS messages to the Tuoi Tre hotline in a desperate attempt to get rescued from a coffee shop where attendants are required to let drinkers hug, kiss, and caress them in the southern province of Binh Duong.

Based on the clues D. provided, a group of Tuoi Tre reporters instantly set off on their pursuit of the ring.

Under disguise

On Monday, one day after receiving D.’s distress messages, a female reporter called the phone number 0986012… and talked to a 37-year-old man named Vu.

Vu is the one that has posted recruitment notices on several websites, seeking good-looking girls for coffee shops and karaoke parlors.

To check on the reporter’s looks, Vu came to see her in a businessman-like manner at a café on Cu Lao Street in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City.

The man introduced himself as the owner of a series of large coffee houses, massage and karaoke parlors in the city’s Tan Binh District.

Vu reassured the reporter that her youthful appearance would earn her at least VND40 million (US$1,864) a month, while the expenses for clothes and makeup would be covered.

On Wednesday, after picking up the reporter near the An Suong Flyover in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, Vu took her to nearby Binh Duong instead of Tan Binh District as previously agreed.

On the way, he exposed himself as a fraudster by insisting that she sexually arouse customers and allow them to caress and kiss her while working in coffee shops.

Vu, a key go-between in a ring that forces young women into dim-light cafés, is pictured carrying a newly "recruited" girl near the An Suong Flyover in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City before "selling" her to a coffee shop in neighboring Binh Duong Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Around 8:30 am the same day, Vu “sold” the reporter to another man named Long for VND3.5 million ($163) at a café in Di An Town in Binh Duong before leaving.

She was immediately taken by Long to Xuan Thuy Café, which had around 10 murky, damp sheds in the rear.

The sheds were packed with male clients, who were served by two scantily-clad girls.

After agreeing to pay her VND4 million ($186) each month, Long forced the Tuoi Tre reporter to sign a contract, which required her to serve clients for three months.

She was also required to learn how to arouse customers and not to venture out on streets in any circumstances. Long also warned that the reporter would have to tempt her clients into ordering at least 30 glasses of drinks each day at VND20,000 ($1) apiece, or she would be denied salaries or bonuses.

During only the first few hours into her first day “at work,” the reporter was coerced into tending to almost 20 male clients, who came in a wide age bracket.

Chi, from the southern province of Kien Giang, who was assigned to show the reporter the way around, advised her to try her best and please customers; otherwise, she would get locked up.

Around 4:00 pm the same day, Long took the reporter to Vang Anh Café, which is some 200 meters from his own, to serve more customers.

The shop owner, who is Long’s elder sister, seized her cellphone.

The reporter was finally “bailed out” the following day by other Tuoi Tre reporters for VND3.5 million.

Long said all such cafés in the neighborhood pay brokerage fees of VND2.5 million ($117) to VND3.5 million, depending on the women’s looks.

Techniques of sourcing country girls

According to the Tuoi Tre reporters’ investigation, Vu has used different pseudonyms to look for young women with good appearance via online recruitment notices. 

The notices advertise that the women’s meals and accommodation will all be covered, while they will earn monthly incomes of VND45-50 million ($2,097- 2,330).

Many women have fallen prey to such enticing ads.

The newspaper’s investigation reveals that Vu is the main “distributor” of young women to many dim-light cafés in the Dong Chieu area in Tan Dong Hiep Ward, Di An.

He “sold” women to café owners for VND3-3.5 million each, depending on their looks.

Most of the girls are coerced into sexually satisfying clients and are even beaten.

With no money to bail themselves out, these women have no choice but to come to terms with the situation.

Short on attractive female attendants, these café owners are always on the scour for pretty young girls, and place orders with such intermediaries as Vu. 

Trang, the owner of Thuy Trang Café in Dong Chieu, divulged that female workers who have quit their factory jobs due to starving incomes and hard work make a good source of supplies for her coffee shop.

According to Luu, who runs Mi Sa Café in the same area, the neighborhood is home to 19 such dim-light cafés, and thus competition is relentlessly intense.

Rescue

On Thursday, Quan, the owner of Anh Thu Café in Dong Chieu, and his wife demanded VND3.5 million in return for D.’s freedom.

D. is the girl who sent distress messages to Tuoi Tre earlier.

Twelve days after being “sold” by Vu to Anh Thu Café, D. has finally returned to the safety of her home after Tuoi Tre reporters paid the money.

She said that earlier this month, she came across Vu’s recruitment ad for a karaoke parlour attendant.

Tempted by the high salary mentioned in the ad, D. bought into Vu’s words and came to meet him.

Vu then took her straight to Binh Duong and “sold” the woman to Quan.

D. said that she and four other women were forced to serve clients from 6:00 am every day until there were none left.

They were locked up in their room by night and were not allowed to go out under any circumstances.

Quan's wife (right) is pictured counting the money used to bail out D., a victim who sent Tuoi Tre three distress text messages on March 22, 2015 in a desperate attempt to get her out of Quan's coffee shop in Binh Duong Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Do Anh Dung, vice chair of Tan Dong Hiep Ward People’s Committee in Di An Town, told Tuoi Tre on Saturday that the local government has carried out inspections of 18 dim-light cafés and slapped fines totaling over VND34 million ($1,584) on them for multiple violations since late February this year.

He added that local police have also raided and penalized many cafés which offered sex services to customers.

Police officers will continue cracking down on these coffee shops in the coming time, Dung said.

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