Vietnamese Domestic Workers in Taiwan: Voices of Those Crying for Help
Viet Tide, Inteviews, Staff, Translated by Andrew Lam Posted: Jul 27, 2005
Editor's Note: Many young Vietnamese went to Taiwan seeking for a better life, seduced by the Japanese movie "Osin" in which a maid saved money and managed to make a new life for herself after a difficult indentured life. But the reality, as Viet Tide reports, turns out far worst than the movie, and in many cases, tragic.
She has a very innocent face. Her accent belongs to those who lived all their lives in the countryside. Whatever she thinks she says. Thuy arrived in Taiwan on August, 2004, through the OSIN program. Osin is actually the name of a Japanese movie and it was shown in Vietnam some years ago. In it, Osin, the main character, is a maid who worked very hard, saved money, and, after many difficulties, managed to escape her indenture life and created a new life for herself. In Vietnam, Vietnamese loved this movie, so much so that Osin becomes the name they associate with their dream of making a small fortune as a laborer overseas.
When Thuy arrived in Taiwan, she was told that the person who had originally hired her had passed away. She ended up finding a job as a servant to an old couple and their two grandchildren.
From morning to evening, every day, she worked hard, was never allowed to rest. After sweeping, it was laundry. After laundry she cooked and cleaned and served food. All the while she had to carry the youngest child around 1 year old in one arm. And the six year old also needed taken care of before he’s sent to school.
According to Thuy, she ate the left over but there was never enough food, so she nearly fainted many times. On many occasions, she was slapped repeatedly on her face and head because the employers didn’t think she was working hard enough. She showed her neck to Viet Tide reporters, and it was full of purple bruises. Her arm and legs too were full of bruises.
Thuy said, “It’s really painful, for nine months, they beat me like an animal. I couldn’t bear it anymore, so I told them I quit. The couple talked, and they said, I have to get out of the house immediately, and they threw my bag into the courtyard and it was raining like mad outside.… I had no money with me. I knew no one in Taiwan. I sat in the rain and cried. The neighbor, who was a Pilipina, saw me, and she took me in and fed me and called all kinds of government agencies to help me. After a while, she located Father Hung [Father Hung Nguyen runs who runs a shelter for Vietnamese trafficking victims and maltreated laborers in Taiwan] and sent me to his shelter by taxi.”
Thuy is still living there, and is looking to find a new job. “I now really need the support of Father Hung. If he finds a job for me, I will continue to work to help my family in Vietnam. If there’s no job available, then I’ll have to find money to buy a ticket to go home.”
Asked if she really wanted to go home, Thuy said: “We’re so poor in Vietnam. Jobs are almost impossible to find. If you find a job as a laborer, say, carrying bricks or working in the rice field, the most you can make is around half a million dong (around $30 US dollars) a month. In Taiwan, as a maid working for a kind owner, you can make six, seven times the amount you would make at home.”
Life of Miss N.
She doesn’t want her real named mentioned so Viet Tide decides to call her Miss N. and the following is her story of her plight in Taoyan, a city north of Taipei about one hour by car.
“My home village is in Viet Tri. This year I’m 40 years old. My village is very, very poor, and it’s so hard to make a living there, and the Vietnamese currency has no real value. In my village, lots of people went to work as Osin, and when they came back to Vietnam, they said, ‘Taiwan is a good place to make a living,’ so I decided I should go in the hope that I could make some money and then come back to start some kind of business.
I came to Taiwan on January 18, 2005, and according to the company that recruited me, I was supposed to take care of an old man who was bedridden, he was paralyzed. When I left Vietnam, I had to borrow about 20 million dong (around 1400 dollars) to pay this company that recruited me. When I got there just one day, I was sent to another company ran by a Mr. Hong. He told me the old man that I was supposed to take care of didn’t need me yet so I was assigned to work for Mr. Hong himself instead, and learn Taiwanese in the process. Mr. Hong also assigned me to work as a maid for another man and I get paid around 3 dollars a day but the money didn’t go to me, the company took it all. When Mr. Hong drove me home from my work on January 29, he started to tell me that he loved and he reached over to touch my breasts. I was so angry, I pushed his hand away and he slapped me very hard, and my face started to swell up.
When we got home, there was no one there. His wife and kid lived at another house, and he made me sit down on this chair and began molesting me. I resisted but he started slapping me repeatedly, on my face, on my head. Then he said in a sweeter voice that if I let him sleep with me he would find a job for me. I said no. I said I was having my period and hoped he wouldn’t rape me. But he just went for my groins area and began raping me. Then he picked up a wooden walking stick and beat me on the legs and I fell.
After that he raped me many times while I was being kept hostage there.”
Miss N. started to cry while talking with reporters of Viet Tide. She managed to escape, and is currently living in the shelter provided by Father Nguyen Manh Hung.
The Story of Two Sisters From Tay Ninh
The older sister, M., is 23 years old, the younger, T., is 20. they came to Taiwan in July, 2004. M. said: “We come from Tay Ninh, and our village there is so poor, we nearly starved. We never ever visited Saigon and yet, we ended up in Taipei instead. When we left, we hoped to find a husband, and then find a job, so we could send money home to our parents and they could build a house. We didn’t expect to humiliated like this.”
T. cried: “the moment we arrived at the Taipei airport, the middleman showed up with two other men and took our passports and visas and they took us away in their car, and we ended in this building that had 16 floors. They kept us inside, day and night. They forced us to entertain guests. For 21 days, our bodies were used by the various clients. A few of the clients were actually kind, and gave us a little bit of money and told us to escape and go to the police. We managed to escape and we went to the police and I found out that I was pregnant from the various rapes, so they sent me to hospital for an abortion. My sister was not pregnant but we were both worried that we had contracted some venereal diseases because so many clients refused to wear condoms.”
After their escape, both T. and M. were given shelter by the police while waiting for court trial. After that, they were sent to Eden, a Catholic organization that provided help to people suffering similar circumstances. According to M., the man who brought her and her sister to Taiwan is still a free man. Taiwanese police are gathering evidence that he sold the two sisters to a brothel in order to prosecute him.
The two sisters appeared very pale, and thin. The older sister, M., said: “How the future turns out, going home or staying, we have no idea, and we dare not think about it.” Then she wept: “Oh, please, please, save us!”
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