While working on a story about Cambodian women trafficked to China for marriage in 2014, 25-year-old Chinese documentary photographer Yan Cong met a Cambodian woman named Buntha in Jiangxi province, China. Moved by this issue, Yan decided to tell her story through a series of intimate and powerful photographs. The photographs explore the subject of Cambodian woman who migrate to China with the expectation of marrying a wealthy Chinese man, but who often end up in poverty. In Jiangxi province alone, more than 2,000 Cambodian women have registered marriages to Chinese men in recent years.
Yan approached the USAID Cambodia Countering Trafficking-in-Persons program for help sharing the story she had captured through photography with the Cambodian public, aiming to reveal the hard reality of life in China for a Cambodian bride. Yan and the program saw an important opportunity to collaboratively raise awareness on this key issue through Yan’s compelling photographs.
As a result, a mobile exhibition featuring photographs of Buntha’s life in China was launched in May 2016, showing in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Siem Reap. “I hope people become more aware of the issue and care about this group of people by understanding their lives and connecting with them on a personal level”, stated Yan.
In Kampong Cham, Buntha’s hometown, over 400 local people including students and monks attended the launch of the exhibition and learned about the issue through Yan’s poignant photographs. “We should know that brokers persuade us to migrate. We should know the address of our working place in the destination country and inform the local authority and neighbors before migrating,” said one young female student after attending the exhibition launch. Another female student requested that “Before one decides to migrate, she/he thinks thoroughly, and before signing a contract that person should read it carefully, and be brave to file a complaint for any problems to the government of the destination country.”
Since 2013, the program has been working on the frontline to raise awareness with the public on the increasing trend of women undertaking risky migration to China for marriage.