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Tao Yue Hong covers his face as he walks into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to attend a hearing about his alleged involvement in human trafficking
Tao Yue Hong covers his face as he walks into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to attend a hearing about his alleged involvement in human trafficking. Hong Menea

‘I’m a victim’: accused trafficker

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday heard the case of two alleged human traffickers, one of whom told the court that she herself had been a victim of trafficking just last year.

Presiding judge Kor Vandy said Cambodian national Neth Sokly and her Chinese husband, Tao Yue Hong, were accused of participating in the trafficking of a dozen Cambodian women to China under the pretence that they would find jobs as garment workers there in 2013, only to sell them to older Chinese husbands.

“With this work, they took a commission of $400 from each [bride],” he said, adding the couple was charged with unlawful recruitment for exploitation, and the act of selling or buying a person for cross-border transfer.

Prosecutor Ly Sophana said Sokly and Tao – who allegedly were involved in trafficking from their home in Shanghai – had been arrested on July 5, 2013, at Phnom Penh International Airport while on a trip to visit Sokly’s parents. The arrests, he said, were based on complaints from four alleged victims, most of whom are still in China.

“In China, they sold the victims for a price of $10,000 up to $15,000 to marry Chinese men,” he said.

According to Sophana, six others were charged for their alleged involvement but are still at large.

One 23-year-old victim said she and two others had been recruited by a Cambodian female broker and were met at the airport in Shanghai by Sokly and Tao.

“Later, [the traffickers] held our passports and brought us to be sold into marriage to old Chinese men in Shanghai,” she continued, adding that she had been involved in three such marriages but was sent away each time after she proved unable to bear the abuse she suffered.

“To compensate for my damages and the loss of my honour, I demand $40,000 in compensation,” she said.

Another victim, 20, said she was seeking $20,000.

At the hearing, Sokly told the court she had been trafficked to China herself and that while she had been involved in collecting the women at the airport, she had never sold anyone, only accepting a commission from another broker for “interpretation and travel services”.

Verdicts in the case are due on August 14.

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