updated 28 Sep 2013, 23:54
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Thu, Jul 18, 2013
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Only 17, and a forced bride
by Koh Hui Theng

Su(Not her real name) is the only daughter of a labourer.

She does not know exactly when her birthday is. With no money to finish kindergarten and desperate to make ends meet, Su ended up selling whatever her father could get from the rivers and fields.

Her three brothers also pitched in.

Her mother died when she was 12.

So when a neighbour's friend promised her a maid's job in 2007, she jumped at the chance to improve her family's life. Sadly, there was no happily ever after.

Su was beaten and sold as a forced bride - a victim of human trafficking.

A fellow countryman had persuaded her to leave Yangon for Mandalay and Lashio. Then she was put on a taxi to a village in Yunnan, China.

Su, now 23, recalled through a translator: "(A man) said my husband-to-be was waiting at the destination. I cried and begged him not to do this. I couldn't run away because I didn't know where to run to and I was scared they'd kill me if I got caught."

She did not even have time to call her father before she was sold, like "a commodity", to a man she had never met. The bride price: 30,000 yuan (S$6,200) - and not a cent went to her or her family.

To make matters worse, Su didn't understand Mandarin. So she used gestures to communicate with her construction worker-husband. Her in-laws kept her under close watch.

Although she does not know her husband's age, she thinks he is in his early 30s.

"My mother-in-law followed me everywhere and scolded me the whole time," Su said.

"I felt miserable, made worse when I fell ill soon after I arrived (in the village). My husband also whipped me with his belt.

No one had hit me before."

She added: "I had to marry him because there were no other options. I felt really sad but I was already in China so I had to try and get on with everyone, even though his parents were not nice... I told myself I'd go back when I have enough money."


She tried to flee "so many times until I lost count". Each failure meant more beatings and scoldings. One escape bid in 2007 failed when the nephew of a villager who had a forced bride saw her and took her back, with the police's help.

At the age of 18, Su gave birth to a daughter. A son followed a year later, in 2009.

She eventually learned Mandarin by watching television daily and ran away - successfully - last year. The getaway was possible only because many kind strangers lent a helping hand, Su said. But her freedom came at a heavy price: Su had to leave the children behind.

When Su reached her motherland, there was only bad news: She had no home. Cyclone Nargis had destroyed everything and her father, whom she adored, was dead.

With the help of relief organisation World Vision, Su worked as a seamstress at a textile factory. But her heart remains in China, with her children. Su hopes to return there one day, legitimately.

She said: "I know people will be angry at me because I escaped but now I want to go back. I can't abandon my children. I cry every time I think of them... They'll be discriminated because they're half-Burmese...

I don't want my children to have the same fate as me."


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readers' comments

When the buying stops?...
Posted by bullterrier on Mon, 22 Jul 2013 at 22:12 PM
... some were sold as prostitutes ... only when the buying stops, then these girls will not fall preys to human traffickers in disguise who promised them a future, a job ...
Posted by mystrawberry on Mon, 22 Jul 2013 at 17:34 PM

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