In late October 2019, ambulance crews in the United Kingdom were called to a scene of horror.
On a quiet road in a nondescript industrial park in Essex, the bodies of 39 people were found when the heavy steel doors of a refrigerated truck trailer were opened.
The victims had suffocated. Death came slowly as oxygen levels inside the airtight container depleted for the 28 men, eight women and three children as their attempt to be smuggled into the UK ended tragically.
The youngest were two 15-year-olds. All were from Vietnam and the majority were from one province - Nghe An.
“I’m sorry Dad and Mum,” 26-year-old Pham Thi Tra My tapped out in a final text message she composed for her parents.
“Mum, I love Dad and you so much. I’m dying because I can’t breathe ... I am so sorry, Mum,” she wrote in a phone message that was widely reported on at the time.
The message was delivered long before her death was officially confirmed by police investigators in the UK.
In 2021, seven people were jailed in the UK for a total of 92 years for their role in the deaths of the 39. This week, an eighth suspect, described as a "right-hand man" in the smuggling ring, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison by a UK court.
"Twenty-eight men, eight women and three children died agonising deaths ... as a result of the conspiracy of which you were part," Judge Neil Garnham told Marius Draghici, 50, as he handed down his sentence, the Reuters news agency reported.
As details emerged of the macabre discovery in Grays, Essex - approximately 35km (22 miles) from the centre of London - people smuggling operations received rare media attention. So, too, did the risks that many are willing to take for a chance at a better life.
The tragedy also briefly shone a spotlight on Vietnam’s north-central province of Nghe An, from where 21 of the 39 had journeyed to the UK.
With poor job prospects at home, large numbers of Vietnamese leave Nghe An in search of work opportunities overseas. This is not by chance. Local authorities have long promoted "labour export" and the policy has become so established in Nghe An that it appears that people are a key element of the province's export plans.
On a recent visit to Nghe An, Al Jazeera spoke to locals who had mourned the dead from the Essex tragedy, but were making their own plans to work overseas - either legally or illegally. And while they were fully aware of the risks involved, they were also focused more on the potential rewards, which are visible to all living in Nghe An, particularly the residents of the "billionaire village".