Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Brothel escape recounted

Brothel escape recounted

Sok Panha (right), who was arrested last year on human trafficking charges, leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court
Sok Panha (right), who was arrested last year on human trafficking charges, leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Hong Menea

Brothel escape recounted

Three women who believed they had been recruited to work in garment factories in Malaysia fled a hotel in Kuala Lumpur last year after being forced into prostitution, Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard yesterday.

Sok Panha, 36, appeared in court yesterday on human trafficking charges following her arrest on August 20, the presiding judge, Suos Sam Ath, said.

“She has recruited and lured the unsuspecting young women from Cambodia after promising them highly paid garment work in Malaysia,” he said. “But when the victims arrived in Malaysia, they were forced to work as prostitutes.”

One of the complainants, 22, told the court she had known Panha for about two months before the accused introduced her to a Chinese-Malaysian man named Mai who, at Panha’s request, arranged for her and two other women to move to Malaysia by way of a bus through Thailand.

“The reason I decided to accept her offer of work in Malaysia was because she promised me between $700 and $800 per month,” she said. “But when we arrived in Malaysia, we were forced to work as prostitutes – sleeping with foreign men in a hotel there. And after sex with clients, our payment was taken by Mr Mai.”

The three women, she continued, were forced to have sex with “many” Chinese and Malaysian men. Unable to bear more, they fled to the Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur to raise the alarm. “We ran out of the hotel and took a taxi to the embassy to beg for intervention and help,” she said.

Panha yesterday denied the allegations, saying she had recruited the women for work in Malaysia at their request, but had no idea that Mai was forcing them into sex work.

“I did not sell them into prostitution,” she said. “I would like to ask the court to drop the charges and release me.”

Colonel So Mandy, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection unit, said two Chinese-Malaysian men were also arrested by police in Malaysia in relation to the case. He added that Panha was arrested after the victims, working with police, arranged a meeting with her. She has been charged with “the act of selling, buying or exchanging a person with purpose.

A verdict is due to be handed down on February 10.


  • Hun Sen ready to ‘break record’, says Rainsy lost

    Caretaker prime minister Hun Sen used a meeting with 18,400 factory workers on Wednesday to predict that he would beat the record for being the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader. He also used the platform to slam political opponent Sam Rainsy who he said had lost

  • Sihanoukville land prices skyrocketing amid breakneck development

    Sihanoukville, the Kingdom’s most famous beach destination for tourists, is seemingly becoming a paradise for Chinese investors as well. The huge influx of Chinese investors has caused property values to rise, especially the price of land, which has nearly doubled in some places near

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by