Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng has threatened legal action against officials accused of sexually abusing or robbing sex workers taken into custody during an ongoing crackdown on prostitution.
The threat comes a day after sex workers gathered in Phnom Penh to protest the implementation of a new anti-trafficking law that critics say gives authorities a license to rape.
The law, promulgated in February, is aimed at curbing people smuggling, either for labor or sexual exploitation. It has resulted in mass brothel closures throughout the country.
Critics say implementation of the new law has led to rising abuses by police against sex workers. At a June 4 protest against the new law several sex workers alleged being raped, beaten and robbed while in police custody following brothel raids and sweeps through public places where prostitutes ply their trade.
“We have heard this information ... the government, especially the Ministry of Interior, will take legal action against the officials who are accused of rapes of sex workers," Sar Kheng said June 5
Sar Kheng added, however, that sex workers have yet to present any evidence of abuse.
He was speaking at the release of the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons study, which this year upgraded Cambodia to Tier 2, the middle of three tiers which indicates that the country is making efforts to address its trafficking problem.
Hundreds of sex workers attended the June 4 rally against the new legislation. In addition to alleged police abuses, they said the new law has hindered HIV/AIDS care and prevention programs among prostitutes.