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Cop implicated in trafficking

Cop implicated in trafficking

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Migrant worker Nouv Vuthy, 21, hugs his father, Chheung Heab, after returning to Cambodia from Malaysia in July.

Authorities are hunting a fugitive police officer implicated in a high-profile trafficking case involving seven Cambodian men who were forced to work in horr-ific conditions aboard Thai fishing boats.

The officer, who officials have asked the Post not to identify, holds a mid-ranking position. He was stationed near the Thai border and is thought to have helped traffic 15 people across the border.

His alleged victims include Nou Vuthy, one of seven men rescued in Malaysia earlier this year after escaping from slave labour on Thai fishing boats.

Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said yesterday a warr-ant for the officer’s arrest had been issued on July 29, the day the seven trafficked fishermen had been repatriated to Cambodia.

“Right now, he is escaping from one province to another. I’m not sure where, exactly, but police are continuing to try to arrest him. After we questioned the victim, we knew he was among the brokers who cheated Cambodian workers to Thailand,” Chiv Phally said.

Nou Vuthy said yesterday  he believed the police off-icer was the main broker  in a network that trafficked him and other men across the Thai border, charging them 100,000 riel (US$25) each for supposedly lucrative jobs in Thailand.

“He is the main broker who allowed us to go through to Thailand and took money from us, but right now he has escaped,” he said.

Nou Vuthy said his neighbour in Kampot who origin-ally lured him into the deal had also fled.

Nou Vuthy was then traff-icked into slave labour aboard fishing boats, where he was subjected to frightening abuse including beatings, almost non-stop work and death threats before escaping with three other Cambodian victims to Malaysia.

That group of men, and another group of three who had endured similar horrors, were rescued during separate raids on plywood factories by Malaysian authorities in May and June this year.

Huy Pich Sovann, a program officer at the Community Legal Education Centre, said yesterday it was strange that the police officer had become aware he was being investigated, as the media had not revealed his identity.

“I don’t know how a police officer can run away. I don’t think he had information that he was being investigated for human trafficking, so how does he know that he has been linked to human trafficking?” he said.

If there was a warrant for the officer’s arrest, it was good news for the victims, Huy Pich Sovann said, adding that he would travel to relevant districts to investigate how the suspect got away.

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