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Khim Chantrea, 23, one of four accused of trafficking brides to China, is escorted by officials after his hearing yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Khim Chantrea, 23, one of four accused of trafficking brides to China, is escorted by officials after his hearing yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Niem Chheng

Three accused over China bride trafficking absent from court

Only one of four Cambodians charged with attempting to traffic four women to be sold in China as brides showed at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for trial, with two alleged victims saying they had been promised jobs in Singapore.

Chan Sokhim was last year charged with “unlawful recruitment for exploitation” under the Anti-Trafficking Law, and faces a prison term of between seven and 15 years if found guilty. Khim Chantrea, and Chantrea’s relatives Bun Huor and Bun Sim, face the lesser offence of “receipt of a person.”

Only Chantrea was in court, with his mother and aunt both absent citing health issues and Sokhim in her final stages of pregnancy. Two of their four alleged victims, sisters Kean Nay and Kean Nee, said that Sokhim promised them jobs with $500 per month.

They said they were smuggled across the border into Vietnam in June last year, where they stayed with a family for a week until passports could be arranged for jobs in Singapore. From Vietnam, they flew to Myanmar to apply for visas to China.

At that point, they said, they realised they had been duped. Returning to Vietnam, Chantrea forbid them from leaving, but a chance encounter allowed them to escape. “While Chantrea was buying food, I met a Cambodian Muslim woman who told me that we were trafficked to marry Chinese men,” Nee said. “She gave us 300,000 riel [$75] to travel back home.”

Chantrea did not deny receiving $2,000 to take the victims to Myanmar but claimed he met the four women by chance at the airport. When the victims’ lawyer, Sek Savoeun, showed him a photo of himself with the victims at a guesthouse, he stumbled.

“I took my mother to get treatment in Vietnam and we wanted to visit Myanmar. We met the four women and helped them as they did not know how to fill out the form. We came back together, and I helped them fill out the form again,” he said.

However, the prosecutor, Che Song, appeared to take a soft approach and warned the victims not to lie. “There is no evidence or witness against the accused, so it is up to the court to decide according to law,” Song said.

Both sisters said they withdrew complaints against Chantrea, Huor and Sim after receiving $2,000 from them, but were still demanding $1,000 from Sokhim. A verdict is due June 23.

A previous version of this article stated that Bun Huor and Bun Sim were Khim Chantrea’s parents. They are in fact his mother and his aunt. It also stated that all three had been charged with “unlawful recruitment for exploitation.” They have been charged with the lesser offence of “receipt of a person.” The Post apologises for any confusion caused.
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