When Chhum Sokhoeun was told by police his wife had narrowly escaped being trafficked into the Saudi Arabian sex trade, he was in a state of shock, he said in an interview yesterday.
Sokhoeun and his wife, Phreng Phon, along with two other Cambodian women from Tbong Khmum province, were apprehended by anti-human trafficking police earlier this week while riding in a tuk-tuk in Phnom Penh with two Pakistani men.
According to anti-trafficking police chief Keo Thea, the two foreign men later confessed they had already trafficked more than 10 Cambodians into sex work in the gulf nation, and the three women were set to meet the same fate.
Thea said the Pakistani men were questioned in court yesterday along with alleged broker Ben Nhor, a Cambodian woman.
Sokhoeun said he and his wife were due to leave the Kingdom for Saudi Arabia on Friday, under the impression they would secure jobs as a driver and a maid respectively.
“We are so poor and we saw the family of Ben Nhor is better off because she has two children working in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “The police told us the foreigners did not have good intentions to find us a good job.”
“I panicked. I was so sorry to lose the chance of finding a job abroad, but I was so shocked when I heard that my wife and other two women would be sex workers.”
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said his ministry, together with the foreign affairs and interior ministries, were probing the case. “[We] are finding available means to rescue our people,” he said.
He added that a Memorandum of Understanding signed with Saudi Arabia to import Cambodian domestic workers had not been finalised and therefore recruiting or sending Khmer workers there was illegal.
Oum Chea, chief of Tbong Khmum province’s Rokap Pram commune, confirmed several local women had moved to Saudi Arabia for work because Nhor persuaded them.
Licadho provincial officer Van Seng Thouy said the issue of women moving abroad to places like China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia was widespread.
“We always need to educate the villagers so they know that finding a job abroad with a broker is risky or dangerous, especially because there are many cases where women have become victims,” he said.