Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

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Four people went on trial yesterday accused of trafficking 30 women from Cambodia to China to marry Chinese men between 2014 and 2018.

The group leader was Sou Sopheap, 37. Khun Saravuth, 48, was a coordinator and worked on processing documents. Sok Sothearak, 34, took the women from Cambodia to China. Phal Pha, 34, drove the women to get passports and other documents and to the airport.

In Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Presiding Judge Im Vannak said they had been charged with “unlawful removal for cross-border transfer” under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. They face seven to 15 years each in prison if convicted.

Judge Vannak said they were arrested on May 31 last year by police from the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department in the Ministry of Interior at their rental houses in Tuol Kork district’s Phsar Depo I commune, in Phnom Penh.

After their arrests, police seized two Lexus RX 300 cars, $9,500, eight phones and related documents.

Deputy prosecutor Keo Sokunthear said they were a gang of human brokers. Police had identified them based on their photos and reports from trafficked women who had been rescued and repatriated from China last year.

Ms Sokunthear said the four were arrested in accordance with the victims’ lawsuit, which had been lodged with the anti-human trafficking department in March last year.

She said that according to the police investigation, the four had recruited 30 Cambodian women aged from 20 to 27 and sent them to marry Chinese men in China. They got $5,000 to $10,000 from the Chinese men for each woman.

“Based on real evidence and their confessions, as the court prosecutor, I decide to uphold their charges as effective. I request the judges’ council strongly punish them according to the law,” Ms Sokunthear said.

During yesterday’s trial, the four admitted their guilt, saying that the victims had begged them to find rich foreign men to marry because they wanted to make money to support their poor families.

They all requested the court to reduce their sentences and free them on bail.

Ms Sopheap told the court she started work selecting and bringing beautiful Cambodian girls for marriage to Chinese men in 2014.

She said that from then up to her arrest in May last year, about 30 Cambodian women from poor families in the provinces had begged her for help finding rich foreign men to marry.

To help them, she contacted an unidentified Chinese man who could speak the Cambodian language and was living in Phnom Penh, and who is at large, to find Chinese men for them.

Ms Sopheap said the Chinese man prepared and paid all travel costs, including getting passports and visas for the women.

She said that to work on the victims’ travel documents, she hired Mr Saravuth. Mr Sothearak transported the women to China, and Mr Pha got passports and other related documents.

She paid them from $300 to $1,000 for the work for each case or each person.

“I did not have any attention to bring them to marry Chinese men in China. I would like to ask the court to reduce my sentence,” she said.

Mr Saravuth said he was not a human trafficker. He said he received from $ 200 to $500 from Ms Sopheap for each case.

“I worked for Ms Sopheap because she paid me well,” he added.

A verdict is due on April 10.

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