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The number of women traveling from Cambodia to China for forced or arranged marriages has surged since 2016 and experienced a further spike since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Cambodian women are getting trapped

Cambodian women and girls are coerced and forced into arranged and forced marriages through various means: 

  1. They are deceived and promised a job in China; 
  2. Many of them are misled that they need a marriage certificate to be eligible for well-paid work; &
  3. Their family members and acquaintances sell them off for a lump sum or the promise of a good marriage and better life in China.


According to statements by Cambodian government officials, out of 112 trafficked brides who returned to Cambodia in 2019, 111 returned from China. Based on the reports by various organizations and police actions, it is estimated that more than 10,000 women from Cambodia are trapped in China.


According to Cambodia’s Trafficked Brides Report by Global Initiative, the route of trafficking from Cambodia to China changed from a land/air route to a land/water route due to stricter regulations in the transit countries like Vietnam in 2016. It changed further in 2020 to just air routes since the COVID-19 pandemic 2020. Following is a representation of the same.

Commonly used bride trafficking routes from Cambodia to China

The ordeal of Cambodian Women

Cambodian women who have returned from China described experiences of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, confinement, torture, and forced labor. Here is one example of the same:

Neath (pseudonym), 27, was lured to China with the promise of well-paid employment. Neath and her cousin Noun (pseudonym) caught a flight from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, to Guangzhou. They had tourist visas but little money, so the brokers facilitating their journey provided them with cash to bribe any border guards who might grow suspicious.

A Khmer woman and her Chinese husband greeted the girls at the airport. The cousins didn’t realize something was amiss until the woman locked them in a rented apartment for several days and allowed a stream of visitors to come to assess them.

Eventually, a couple purchased Neath for almost  USD 12,000$. They bought her home and forced her to sleep with their son. That was the beginning of her four years in captivity, during which she was forced to work for the family’s construction business for no pay, and to cook and clean for her new “husband” – they were never officially married – and his parents.

“I tried to run away three or four times,” Neath says. “But every time they would lock me up and keep me without food for two or three days … They all beat me, my ‘husband’ and his parents.”

Neath met a Cambodian woman at a local market in China who promised that she could help Neath escape, but the assistance would come at a price. Neath hadn’t been in contact with her family since she arrived in China, but the woman provided her with a phone to call them and arrange the payment.

Neath’s aunt sold her farmland in Cambodia and brought the USD 3,000$ in profit to the parents of the woman Neath met in the market. Once that deal was done, the woman helped Neath escape, along with two other Cambodian women who were also running away from forced marriages. Neath says the woman and her Chinese husband regularly earned money helping Cambodian women flee China.

Source: https://www.globalcitizen.org/fr/content/cambodia-women-escape-slavery-as-brides-in-china/

Read about the other stories of hardships faced by Cambodian women in China: https://www.ijm.org/news/cambodian-woman-rescued-from-bride-traffickers-in-china