Author's Note: This story is completely fictional, all characters and events are contrived. Also, it is not the intention of the author to question or criticise the Communist Party of Vietnam or Socialism as a whole. The subject of child labour in Vietnam expressed in the story is also fictional having no basis in reality.

Child Slave in Vietnam


The sun walked slowly across the blue morning sky, rising with the inevitable start to the day. Every person on the planet would walk under this sun, every single person. Even Ha'ng.

"Get up!" the voice barked once more like a metal rod striking away her warm dreams.

Although there was nothing warm about today, for Ha'ng awoke on a cold, filthy floor where cockroaches and rats were commonplace. She slept on the factory floor with a torn rag along with several other children around her age, although she had forgotten what age she actually was but she thought she might be ten, or perhaps eleven- she would never know for sure.

A bucket of cloudy water was plonked down unceremoniously by Huynh. That was not his name, but it meant 'older brother' and that was what the children were to call him.

"Drink up! Quickly now, there is much work to be done you rats!" he spat on one of the younger boys, Nha't and stalked off to prepare for the day's work. Nha't's name meant 'long life' but it was doubtful whether he would see the age of 15 let alone lead a long life.

Ha'ng squirmed between the other children and sucked up a desperate drink of the water.

Huynh returned and grabbed up the bucket of water. He preferred never to shout because of his bad lung, which caused him persistent coughs and wheezing but his anger never cooled, as the children knew only too well.

The Master came at 7 o'clock every morning, giving the children cold glares of absolute loathing and would proceed to his office to do his daily work.

The children would sit and do different forms of work everyday. Today they were sewing clothes which were to go to Western Europe, to those wide-eyed rich capitalist bastards who did not give a fuck about the pathetic races in the East.

"Work quickly now!" Huynh barked, "These trousers are to reach Düsseldorf by Friday, and if any of you lag behind I'll beat you until you will hate Buddha himself! And then how will you achieve Nirvāna?" He spat. "You filthy mongrels will never reach enlightenment if I can help it."

He muttered an insult to Guan-yin, a girl of about seven or eight who was of Chinese origin and spoke no Vietnamese. Huynh hated the Chinese.

As Ha'ng carefully and swiftly sewed the waistline of a pair of black trousers she thought back to the earliest memories she had, before she was brought here to this prison.

She had few memories before the age of seven which is probably when she was brought here. Her father was a soldier in the Vietnam People's Navy but she was only told this once by rumour and never from her mother whose name she could not recall. Her mother was tall, had flawless tanned skin and a gorgeous smile, which made onlookers smile inevitably back. She was a prostitute.

Ha'ng's father would return from many months of serving the Socialist Republic hungry for women, and was not above rape- as was the case with Ha'ng's conception one wintry day in Hanoi. Her mother fell pregnant and despite this carried on working- she neither wanted a child nor could look after one.

It was the summer of 1992, the USSR had dissolved the previous year, and the streets of Hanoi knew Ha'ng's mother as the 'pregnant whore', and it was also well known that she was desperate to rid herself of the baby after it was born. So along came the devil to propose a deal for her emancipation.

A tall dark figure speaking with a strong Chinese accent came to her one night in that summer suggesting she sell her child to him after it was born, and he would give her enough money for her to escape to Western Europe - out of Hanoi forever.

She accepted. After three months young Ha'ng was born, a girl with her father's eyes but her mother's smile. A smile that was seldom, if ever, seen in the filthy factory. Her mother was shipped off to Northern France to work as a seamstress, which was lucky seeing as she still spoke the French she had learnt at school.

Thus smiling Ha'ng was taken to the city of Hung Yen within days of her birth to be raised by the Master's sisters who were not unkind to her through the first few years of her life. At the age of seven however, she was taken out into the streets where she had never been before, to the factory floor where she was told she would help out the Master by doing some work for him.

The first few months were immensely difficult, and Ha'ng's once soft hands were reduced to blistered, callused leather full of splinters and burns. There were countless wheals on her back from beatings, she had been thrown around so much that her skull was fractured in several places and the damage to her backbone was so severe that when she tried to stand up straight she had a painful hunch. On more than one occasion she had blacked out and been taken to a private doctor who fixed her up without questions.

She was snapped out of her reverie by Huynh who slapped her hard across the back of the head when he noticed her stitching was going wonky.

"You useless piece of shit!" he screamed, "we give you food, shelter and a place to go! What would you rather, you roam the streets and prostitute yourselves like your mothers?" He spat on one of the girls. "Get to work until the sun goes down, I don't want to hear any pathetic sobbing, we are Vietnamese- we are made of iron!"

More like made of flimsy Japanese paper, thought Ha'ng. Any resolve they had was quashed and reduced to a constant feeling of victimisation, any love they had was converted to bitter hate for everyone and everything, any hope they once possessed had been so badly marred that it became a cold, empty void…. Their souls had been stolen from them and they were simply machines. Machines of the Socialist Government who knew they existed but did not bother to do anything about it.

Why had they been born in such desperate circumstances? they wondered.

Why was there no one in the world who cared for them, or wanted to care for them? The well-fed masses in Europe and North America knew nothing of their plight, the well-developed economies of the East Asian countries boomed generating yen after yen after yen and as they sat sewing trousers war raged on all over the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland.

Hung Yen was Hell on earth. Who cared about space exploration, scientific breakthroughs and emerging superpowers? Every inch of these children's bodies had felt physical pain and torture, their minds were so twisted with despair and hatred by their perpetual oppression and they lived in a world where adults worked children like cattle and treated them worse.

A few children had died in the past few years. Many died of disease, others died of being beaten too hard and very few had escaped to no one knows where.

The daily meal of stale bread was thrown onto the ground for the children after they had sewn several pairs of trousers. Huynh always threw things to the ground, he never handed them anything.

It was rumoured that Huynh's family had been staunch Nationalists and abhorred the Socialists. The present climate of Socialism in Indochina and East Asia angered him more than anything and his hatred for them eclipsed any other prejudices he had had.

After the meal there was more work, this time carrying large sheets of wood in and out of the factory from the delivery vans. The deliverymen never looked twice at the children and instead smoked their cigarettes in the front seat indifferently.

The children worked hard until sunset and huddled together on the factory floor. Many fainted from exhaustion, and others had skeletal tremor from the strenuous work. They would slip into a black sleep hoping they would never wake up.

Some got their wish. Others did not.