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Women return home after ordeal in China

Two 19-year-old women trafficked to China as brides last year escaped abusive husbands and a broker to finally return home on Sunday night, a relative said yesterday.

“I am so happy they are safe,” said Kim Vicheat*, the father of one victim and uncle of the other. “They are pregnant, so now they need to rest.”

Vicheat borrowed $800 to fly his daughter and niece home from Shanghai where they said they were stranded, broke and, despite pleas to the Cambodian consulate there, could receive no financial assistance. Now back home and mired in debt, the women aren’t receiving any reintegration support either, according to rights group Adhoc, which is monitoring their case.

Opposition lawmaker and former Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said the lack of support is not surprising given the absence of a state budget for social services aimed at victims.

“It’s not just social and economic support, but also mental and psychological assistance that’s needed. Without state funding, that’s almost impossible,” she said. “The whole family needs social welfare, otherwise [the women], with no alternative way out of their family’s debt, will find the traffickers coming back again.”

According to a study by the International Organization for Migration, the entire act of rescue and repatriation may be “counterproductive” if not “supported by infrastructure necessary for the long-term reintegration of the victim”.

Police officials have jumped on the case, however, and are slated to meet Adhoc and the victims today to investigate the broker, whom the girls named as Neang Vanau. The Ministry of Interior declined to comment on whether an arrest warrant has been issued.

According to the US State Department, Cambodia convicted just eight labour traffickers last year and four in 2012 due to a lack of evidence and incentives for victims to testify in court.

*Named changed to protect identity.

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