The Vietnamese government has reported nearly a 13% increase in the number of human trafficking victims in 2016.
The Ministry of Public Security said its forces detected 383 cases of human trafficking in 2016, which was down 6% from the previous year, but the victims involved was up a staggering 12.8% to 1,128.
Police managed to rescue 600 victims last year and provide them with healthcare and legal and vocational support, according to a statement from the National Committee for AIDS, Drug and Prostitution Prevention.
Most of the victims were uneducated women and children from poor areas, including many from ethnic minority groups in Vietnam’s northern highlands.
They were sold to men seeking wives in China, Malaysia and South Korea, or just to bear children or work as prostitutes in these countries.
Many of the children were approached through social networks such as Facebook and Zalo, Vietnam's popular messaging app.
Besides financial difficulties, police also blamed negligence, easy immigration procedures and gender imbalance in destination countries as the major reasons for the increase.
Rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia has also created more opportunities for criminals to dupe workers, Mimi Vu of the Pacific Links Foundation, a counter-trafficking NGO, told Reuters last year.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations' shift towards a formal community with freer movement of trade and capital would increase trafficking risks, she said.
According to the United Nations, nearly 21 million people are lured into forced labor every year worldwide and 1.2 million children are trafficked. A third of trafficked women and children are from Southeast Asia.