Vietnam sentences 7 for human smuggling to Britain

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A court in central Vietnam on Monday sentenced seven people to up to 7 1/2 years in prison for smuggling a woman who later died in a truck together with 38 other people as they were being transported into Britain, state media reported Tuesday.

According to the Thanh Nien newspaper, the six men and one woman were found guilty of “organizing and brokering” illegal immigration by the Ha Tinh provincial court in central Vietnam.

Nguyen Quoc Thanh, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hoa and Tran Dinh Truong received jail sentences ranging from five to 7 1/2 years, while the other defendants received probation for orchestrating the smuggling of 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My into England, the newspaper reported.

They were accused of receiving $21,000 to take the woman from her hometown in Ha Tinh province to China, where they used a false passport to travel to France before loading her into a container truck to enter Britain last October.

From the sealed container, My sent a string of texts to her mother in Vietnam saying “I can’t breathe,” typing out her name and home address before passing out.

The authorities identified the rest of the victims, including 10 in their teens, as Vietnamese nationals who left the country to find better opportunities in the West.

“My brother died in a horrible way. And I hope others will learn from this,” said Hoang Thi Lanh, sister of 18-year-old Hoang Van Tiep, one of the victims.

The case drew international attention and has forced Vietnam to step up its controls against human smuggling.