Vietnamese village holds funeral for trafficking victims

Full Screen
1 / 7

The brother of Hoang Van Tiep carries his portrait outside Trung Song church during his funeral on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019, in Dien Chau, Vietnam. The 18-year old Tiep was among the 39 Vietnamese who died when human traffickers carried them by truck to England in October, and whose remains were among the 16 repatriated to their homeland Wednesday. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh)

DIEN THINH – The village of Dien Thinh bid farewell Thursday to two of its sons, victims of a human trafficking tragedy unveiled last month when the bodies of 39 Vietnamese were discovered in a truck in England.

Coffins with the bodies of cousins Nguyen Van Hung and Hoang Van Tiep were carried to the village's Trung Song church for a funeral attended by about 300 people.

"Nguyen Van Hung and Hoang Van Tiep left their hometown to find a better future for themselves and for their families,” Rev. Pham Tri Phuong said. “But the tragedy happened that brought grave pain to the family and for all of us.”

The 31 men and eight women, aged between 15 and 44, are believed to have paid human traffickers to smuggle them to England. Their bodies were found east of London on Oct. 23, and while no cause of death has been officially established, the circumstances suggested asphyxiation.

The investigation is ongoing, and several people suspected of involvement with the case have been arrested in Britain and Vietnam.

The bodies of 16 of the victims, including Hung and Tiep, arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday and were sent on to their families. At least four funerals were held Thursday.

In Dien Thinh, a rural village of about 300 households on the coast of north-central Vietnam, they mourned not just the deaths, but also the circumstances.

"How can we not be in great pain when seeing their aging parents have to bid farewell to their young children,” Phuong told mourners. “How can we be not in great pain to see our brothers who had to suffer such a way of dying in a place so far from home."