We didn’t realize things had gone so wrong at massage parlor, say local authorities

Local authorities said they had been unable to pursue earlier complaints made about a massage parlor in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc District where nearly 90 young women had been forced into prostitution. Ho Chi Minh City Police raided the Tan Hoang Phat massage parlor on December 7 and rescued the young masseuses, some of whom had been locked in the building since 2006.

Rescued masseuses at the police station

Between 2006 and 2007, Phan Thi Yen, the owner of the massage parlor, was commended by the Thu Duc District People’s Committee because of her contributions to the charitable activities in the locality.

Mr. Huynh Huu Hoc, head of Quarter 4 where Yen’s house is located, said earlier this month, Yen had offered VND25 million to quarter authorities to build four recreational parks for the local community.

Hoc said: “I had always thought that Yen was a kind-hearted person. It’s beyond my imagination that she could treat others or her employees ruthlessly like that.”

A number of victims, victims’ relatives and even local people said that they had alerted local authorities to Yen and her husband’s bad treatment of the masseuses but no action had been taken.

Linh Chieu Ward Deputy Chairman Vu Huy Loc said most of the complaints could not be followed up.

”We sent letters to denunciators who lived in the Mekong Delta to invite them to our office so that we could work together on the matter but they did not reply,” he said. “We then went to the parlor, but we were told the denunciators there had quit their jobs three months ago. We could not carry out any further investigations without evidence.”

Loc added: “When a masseuse was reported to have jumped out of the building, we approached her to investigate. At the time, the victim told us that she wanted to go home but could not as Yen owed her money. So she decided to kill herself!”

In response to complaints from local residents about the massage parlor owners locking nearly 100 masseuses in the house, Loc explained: “The owners told us that it was just a measure to prevent the masseuses from becoming involving in prostitution. They said that if they let the girls out at night, they would go on dates with customers and sell sex to them.”

Loc pointed out that the Inspection Team of the ward had gone to the massage parlor to conduct checks many times but they never found any evidence of serious wrongdoings or illegal activities. Sometimes, the massage parlor was issued administrative fines for minor matters such as the masseuses working without wearing name tags.

The father of Nguyen Van Be Chin, one of the employees, had filed a complaint about the exploitation of labor at the massage parlor, according to the deputy head of Thu Duc District Police Pham Van Sung. But Sung said that he should sue Yen and her husband in court as police had no jurisdiction.

Sung admitted authorities had been lax and said local police would learn from the experience. “Things like that will not be allowed to happen in the locality again in the future,” Sung promised.

In related news, on December 10, HCMC police arrested 31-year-old Phan Quoc Cuong, a resident of Thu Duc District, who was one of managers at Tan Hoang Phat massage parlor. Cuong was denounced by masseuses as a “capable assistant” to Yen and her husband in locking 88 masseuses in the house.

Police of Long Khanh Town of Dong Nai Province suspended Captain Nguyen Hong Manh of the Police Bureau of Administrative Management on Social Order for one month.

Manh was responsible for issuing permits to Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, director of Thai Thanh Private Co. in Long Khanh, to buy two pistols. Thanh then lent one of the guns and more than 20 bullets to Phan Viet Hau, Yen’s younger brother and a manager at the massage parlor. The gun was used to bully the masseuses.

Investigations into the issuance of gun permits to Thanh are underway.

Related article:
City Police bust illegal massage ring

By Staff writers – Translated by Phuong Lan

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