The traffickers have gone underground but they'll come back, villagers and brokers say, with the deaths of 39 migrants in a truck in Britain unlikely to deter the country's vast pool of rural Vietnamese from making perilous journeys abroad.

The dead are yet to be formally identified, but many are feared to be Vietnamese from the impoverished central provinces where the pull of a better life outweighs the risk of passage west.

Trafficking networks reach deep into these remote communities.

Brokers arrange flights -- often into Russia -- and plot the route into the UK on trucks, where many villagers end up working on cannabis farms tucked into suburban houses or in nail salons.

For now, the networks have vanished from the remote central Vietnamese towns stained by dread that their loved ones are among the British truck dead.

But they "are not going to disappear" said one broker in Hong Linh district in Ha Tinh province, where several of the missing come from. "They might just temporarily stop."

Towns in this part of the country are largely bereft of young people -- many have already left for overseas.

The money they send home has been used to fund house renovations and buy cars and motorbikes in a part of the country where most people are farmers and fishermen.

The ones that remain still harbour dreams of going overseas, enticed by success stories which ricochet across these quiet, cut-off communities.

"I want to go abroad when I finish school next year," said 17-year-old Tran Manh Thang in Hong Linh, whose father is a farmer.

"It's easy to earn money and I can have a better life."

He says he will try to go to South Korea first and from there set his sights on Europe, where he hopes to work as a waiter.

Trafficking networks reach deep into the remote communities of Vietnam
Trafficking networks reach deep into the remote communities of Vietnam AFP / Nhac NGUYEN

"It's nicer in Europe, from what I see on the internet and hear from neighbours," he said.

'They were unlucky'

While the UK deaths are a warning, young villagers "still have the exact same options and the same beliefs that they had before," according to independent trafficking expert Mimi Vu.

"They're still poor, they still lack access to opportunities in Vietnam."

There is a grim precedent for the dangerous journeys.

During the Vietnam War, people mostly in south Vietnam boarded boats to escape violence that engulfed the country.

Horror stories of deaths en route to safety filtered back from the hundreds of thousands of so-called boat people.

"That didn't stop people from still trying to send their families out," Vu said.

Many these days head for Britain, able to hide their illegal status inside its large Vietnamese community and black economy.

Even for those who have come back from the UK -- deported for working illegally in cannabis farms or caught living in the country illegally -- life overseas still appeals.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, one migrant deported from Britain in 2008 after he was caught growing weed said the allure of money in the UK outsizes the risks.

"For sure people will still keep going," the 41-year-old told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The UK truck dead "were unlucky and it was very unfortunate," he said, but "it doesn't mean anyone else will die".