When well-educated students are trafficked to a Chinese University

Human Trafficking is a worldwide crime that particularly is being carried out in South East Asia. With different push factors, Cambodia is one of the main transit countries in South-East Asia. Women, men and children are trafficked and tricked into slavery every day to perform inhumane work in various industries such as fishing, prostitution, forced marriage and factory labor. Human trafficking is a well-organized crime that develops like every other crime or field. The image of human trafficking changes and we often identify new trends or areas. We all need to keep up with this ongoing development if we want to fight human trafficking.

This situation-paper provides information about a new human trafficking trend that Chab Dai recently discovered. We share this information because it is vital for all partners in this field because we need to be as updated as possible so that we can improve our prevention and protection strategies, form our social work so it benefits the best possible way and advocate and make awareness of the newest trends.  

Case story

Chab Dai’s Case Management Support Project has this year worked on a case that stands apart from other cases. We mainly work with cases involving vulnerable people in one way or another. In this case, we worked with 19 well-educated students, both youth and adults, females and males. They were recruited from Cambodia to study Fashion and Design at a Chinese university under the false promise of a scholarship through a private Cambodian institute called Ipat. Ipat has a MoU with the Chinese university called Yantai Nanshan University. This MoU involves recruiting and sending Cambodian students to China for the purpose of “studying” and having “internships” in Yantai Nanshan. Many Cambodian students registered to go to China from hearing about the scholarship via radio advertising in Cambodia. When they arrived to China they thought they would attend a Fashion and Design course, but they quickly realized that they were required to work in a factory located on campus. The students did not receive the promised scholarship and they only had a few hours to study Chinese language in the evenings as they had to work during the day. Because of the hard work, their conditions in the factory and the empty promises made by Ipat, the students decided to act. They went to the Cambodian Consulate in China to seek assistance. Eight students managed to run to the Cambodian Consulates.

The staff of Chab Dai went to the International Airport of Phnom Penh to pick up the students and also to accompany them to the Anti-Trafficking Police for the purpose of lodging complaints against the director and owner of Ipat.

Personal experience of Seyha*

A 21 year old man explains his experience. He studied a Bachelors in Electrical and Electronic Engineering before he was deceived to China.

“I received information about the scholarship opportunity in China through Ipat institute by listening to Radio Asia Southeast (Radio Asia Akne). Through the radio, the director and owner of the Ipat institute explained about the opportunity for Cambodian students to take a course in Clothing and Fashion Design at Yantai Nanshan University in China. Students would receive a full scholarship and get the opportunity to intern in a real workplace. After listening to the radio, I then discussed this with my parents. My parents and I agreed that this could be a great opportunity to have the chance to study overseas with a scholarship. Therefore we decided to contact Ipat institute and to register for the scholarship.

Like other Cambodians students, I had to pay 2500$ to Mr. Simanann INN, the director and owner of Ipat institute. He told me that I would take a course in Clothing and Fashion Design at the Chinese university and that the course would carry on for 4 years. Mr. Simanann added that I would receive a 500-550$ scholarship to pay for school-fee and living cost. He also said that even though I did not talk Chinese I would still be able to take the course. When I asked what if I end up in trouble? Mr. Simanann responded that he promised me that he would take action to help me and other Cambodian students if we needed help or support. He also showed me the MoU between his institute and the university. I believed him and I decided to pay the 2500. With this amount he was responsible for everything including issuing passport, requesting student Visa and buying the flight ticket. A few days later I was contacted by an Ipat institute officer and later accompanied to a health check-up and to issue passport. They also needed me to issue criminal Record. I was also taught Chinese language for 2 weeks before I left Cambodia on the 29th of December 2015 with other Cambodian students.

The trip to China started with a bus trip to Siem Reap and then we took the flight to China. When we arrived in China, we were all picked up by a school bus that drove us to the Chinese university. At the university I was only allowed to study Chinese language for 1 ½ hour every evening. Instead I was forced to work in the factory from 7:20AM-11:30AM and again from 1:00PM-5:20PM. I worked under very strict conditions and control. I also had to work in the weekends. I received 1500 Yuan per month. This amount was not enough to support my living cost and school fee. If I wanted to take a day off the factory would reduce my salary. My friends and I also asked the school and factory if we could take Sundays off, but we were not allowed. If we were sick and wanted to take a sick day of, we had to have a letter from a hospital. It was all so hard. We knew that we were in trouble! Therefore, we tried to contact Mr. Simanann, in order to solve the problem for us. However, our problems never got sorted out. Mr. Simanann promised to solve the problems with university, but he did not.

Because we could not pay the money the university required, the university delivered a letter informing us to pay on time otherwise they would take legal actions against us. Because of this letter my friends and I had to work so hard to get the required money to pay for the university. We actually did not take a single course in Clothing and Fashion Design. I realized that something was wrong and nothing was like Mr. Simanann had told us. To begin with I decided to go to China because I wanted to study but instead I ended up forced to work in a factory to earn money to pay for the school fee. I did not receive any scholarship or internship opportunity. Everything was an empty promise. We all were so worried because we knew we were in trouble. So my friends and I decided to seek further assistance from the Cambodian Consulate in China. We managed to run from the university to the Cambodian Consulate by taking a train on the 9/06/2016. It took us one day to reach the Cambodian Consulate. At the Consulate we were provided with a place to sleep and enough food. We requested our Consulate to settle the issues for us. An official from the university came to the Consulate and they agreed that we should not pay for the university fee and also that they would pay us salary for the time that we had worked in the factory.

Because of the Cambodian Consulate and Chab Dai, I and my friends returned home, we arrived in Cambodia on the 22/06/2016 midnight”.

Recently, the director and owner of Ipat have been arrested by Phnom Penh Anti-Human Trafficking Police. He has been detained in order to wait for further legal procedures.

*Name changed to protect privacy. 

Joseph ArnholdComment