Eight of 15 Vietnamese women who fell prey to a trafficking ring in Russia remain trapped in a Moscow brothel, a rights group said Thursday, accusing Vietnamese officials of working hand in glove with the prostitution den.
Russian authorities are investigating the brothel where the 15 have been forced into sex slavery, but the traffickers have evaded police through tip-offs from officials at the Vietnamese embassy, said Nguyen Dinh Thang, co-founder of the U.S.-based Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA).
Thang charged that the brothel is one of many in Russia run “under the tutelage and protection of some officials at the Vietnamese embassy in Moscow.”
“It’s a big industry,” Thang said.
A Vietnamese woman is believed to be running the trafficking ring, and has been identified by victims and their relatives as Thuy An. She has let five more women leave the brothel in recent weeks after letting two go last month, and all of them have returned to Vietnam.
The women were allowed to leave because they were “causing trouble” for the traffickers by contacting relatives who spoke out about their plight, Thang said.
But eight others are still being held incommunicado, including one woman who has been there for four years.
Through links between Nguyen Dong Trieu, a consular envoy at the embassy, who is a relative of Thuy An’s partner, the ring has avoided being closed down by police, according to Thang.
Trieu refused to comment when contacted by RFA last month, while Thuy An said she was not breaking the law.
“I’m running a legal business. I have been living here for many years. I don’t want to have any bad rumors about my name,” Thuy An, who also goes by An Ot, told RFA.
Police raids thwarted
In a first attempted raid on the brothel, Russian police found an empty apartment after embassy officials—who were informed of the raid by police according to standard protocol for similar actions involving Vietnamese citizens—tipped off the traffickers, Thang said.
“They notified the traffickers so the traffickers moved all the victims just two hours before the raid,” Thang.
In a second attempt, police raided the wrong apartment, arresting by mistake an unrelated person with a name similar to that of one of the brothel owners, he said.
“The people at the embassy know exactly where the victims are. If they wanted to inform the Russian police, they could,” he said.
Huynh Thi Be Huong, one of the women who escaped and returned to Vietnam last month, told RFA that Trieu had refused to help her when she and four of the other women contacted him during a brief escape from the brothel in January.
She and the other women were recaptured by the brothel owners shortly after telling Trieu of their whereabouts, said Be Huong, whose sister in the U.S. contacted CAMSA about her plight.
CAMSA is working with staff at the U.S. Congress and hopes to secure the release of the eight women soon.
“We expect to bring all of them home within this month,” Thang said.
Reports last month in the Russian media about two Vietnamese women rescued by police in a raid on a Moscow brothel were about a different case, according to Thang.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.