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Singapore Matchmakers for Vietnamese Women Risk Jail

Previously, Vietnamese girls lined up in their village to meet groups of Singaporean bride hunters, led there by Singapore matchmakers. Now, the men go just one at a time, discreetly, and there is no parade.

Said Mr Loi Eng Tuang, owner of Ideal Marriage Centre: “I take a client to see only the girl he is interested in, picked from the photos we show him in Singapore. If you have a village full of girls waiting for your clients, you’d invite attention and thus, trouble.”

It’s either that or risk being jailed since what matchmakers do might be deemed human trafficking. Brokers claim they’re providing a mutually beneficial service. But welfare workers say the women are treated like goods. Vietnamese authorities also disapprove and have been taking tough action. They have jailed some middlemen based there.

For instance Mr Francis Toh, 54, who owns the First Overseas International Matchmaker in Katong Shopping Centre in Singapore, has had his brother-in-law Nguyen Van Phat, 35, arrested for arranging for scores of prospective brides to be lined up for the inspection of his Malaysian clients. Phat was convicted of human trafficking and jailed 12 years. Phat’s Malaysian customers were jailed six months each.

In Singapore, groups of Vietnamese girls can still be seen sitting in these matchmaking agency offices. Although matchmakers charge anything from S$6,800 to S$8,000 for a marriage, they don’t make much money after deducting overheads such as the girls’ living expenses and air fare, which alone is over S$2,000 for each girl as their social visit pass lasts a month.

Last month, AFP reported that Chinese police rescued 18 Vietnamese women who had been kidnapped and sold into marriages in south-east China. Malaysia’s The Star also reported on 19 Dec that a syndicate had been uncovered by Vietnamese police after sending 400 women to Malaysia, with some allegedly taken to Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. About 80 women found husbands in Malaysia and 223 others returned to Vietnam. Some 100 other women are unaccounted for, sparking fears they could have been sold into prostitution.

Cases of abused Vietnamese wives in South Korea and Taiwan as well as fears that the marriage agency could be a cover for prostitution rings have led to the Vietnamese government’s crackdown, reported Thanh Nien News, a Vietnamese newspaper.

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