After British Truck Deaths, Vietnamese Families Wait for News


    28 October, 2019

    British officials have accused a 25-year-old man of causing the deaths of 39 people found in a truck near London last week. The British man also was charged with taking part in an international human trafficking group.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote a note of support for the victims, saying: "The whole nation and indeed the world has been shocked by this tragedy, and the cruelty of the fate that has been suffered by innocent people who were hoping for a better life in this country."

    In Vietnam, VNExpress reported that 24 families from Ha Tinh and Nghe An provinces in north-central Vietnam do not yet know whether their children are among the dead. Some of the family members have sent pictures of the missing people to relatives and friends in Britain to ask for help.

    Pham Van Thin's 26-year-old daughter, Pham Thi Tra My, is likely among the 39 people who died in the truck.

    Pham said his daughter had sent her mother a text message saying, "I'm sorry Mum. My journey abroad hasn't succeeded. Mum, I love you so much! I'm dying because I can't breathe ... I am sorry, Mum."

    Pham Van Thin, father of Pham Thi Tra My, a suspected victim of 39 deaths on a truck container in UK, sits at home in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Kham
    Pham Van Thin, father of Pham Thi Tra My, a suspected victim of 39 deaths on a truck container in UK, sits at home in Ha Tinh province, Vietnam October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Kham

    Bui Thac's nephew is among those feared to be dead. Bui told the Reuters news agency, "Almost all households have someone going abroad. Old people stay but young people must find ways to work abroad because it's difficult to work at home."

    Seeking better life abroad

    Without jobs, thousands of Vietnamese from poor areas like Nghe An seek a better life overseas each year. A major chemical leak three years ago at the Formosa steel factory there only worsened conditions.

    "We decided to let my husband work abroad in 2016 when the Formosa incident happened," said Anna Nguyen. Her husband went to Ukraine, France and then Britain to find work in a nail salon.

    Ha Tinh's state-run newspaper said last month that over 40,000 people leave the province each year in search of jobs.

    "People from these provinces have a long history of going overseas to earn money to send back home," said Mimi Vu, an anti-trafficking activist based in Ho Chi Minh City.

    Experts believe human traffickers charge Vietnamese families thousands of dollars to send a relative overseas. Last month, Britain's Ambassador to Vietnam, Gareth Ward, warned of the dangers of trusting human traffickers.

    "They are not friends. They are criminals," he said.

    On the website VNExpress, one person commented, "No matter what the country is, this is sad and depressing... I think the current life in Vietnam is not too difficult. Instead of spending hundreds of millions to go abroad, that amount of money in Vietnam could create many jobs."

    I'm Ashley Thompson.

    Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from Reuters and VNExpress. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

    Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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    Words in This Story

    journey - n. trip, an act of traveling from one place to another

    abroad - adv. in or to a foreign country

    nail salon - n. a business that specializes in nail care services

    depress - v. to make someone feel sad

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