Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday handed down a 15-year sentence to a woman convicted of taking a deaf, HIV-positive 13-year-old from the organisation that was housing her and forcing her to have sex with an old man in a Phnom Penh brothel last year.
Presiding judge Taing Sunlay said that 44-year-old defendant Em Sophea, a reputed casino gambler also known as Je Srey, was also obligated to pay some $2,000 in compensation to the victim after being convicted of selling, buying or exchanging a person with intent under Article 15 of the anti-human trafficking law.
“Based on the hearing, and after clearly considering this case according to the laws, the court has found that Em Sophea is guilty,” he said, adding that Sophea had the right to appeal.
The conviction came after a decision in February to reinvestigate the case based on the defendant’s claim that she had been at NagaWorld at the time of the events in question.
Sophea was arrested on July 15, 2013, by the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department based on a complaint from New Hope for Cambodian Children, an NGO that assists HIV-positive children, Sunlay said. Sophea had taken the girl from the organisation’s premises in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, he continued, and forced her to have sex with an old man in a brothel located in the White Building, a slum in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune, on June 16, 2013.
Sok Phalla, executive director of New Hope, said that the girl had been born HIV-positive and was orphaned at the age of 5 months. She had been living with New Hope since 2007, and had been transferred from the organisation’s Kampong Speu branch to the Takhmao branch to make it easier to attend classes for the deaf in Phnom Penh, he added.
“She disappeared without any reason from our orphanage centre in Takhmao on the 15th of June, 2013, and she returned by herself [on foot] to the centre on the 18th of June,” Phalla said.
“When she returned to the centre, I noted that she was pale and looked very tired, and there were many injuries on both of her arms and legs. After asking her, she told us that she was caught by the accused woman, and got detained inside her house,” he continued.
“She said that she was brought by this accused woman and forced to have sex with an old man who was a card player at a brothel shop in the White Building area. After having sex, she was given 2,000 riel (about $0.50) from this woman as a fee for having sex with that old man.”
A medical examination, Phalla added, showed that the young girl had injuries consistent with rape.
Sophea, however, maintained her innocence yesterday, and vowed to appeal.