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Disparate charges in bride-trafficking case

Khim Chantrea, 23, one of four accused of trafficking brides to China, is escorted by officials after his hearing earlier this month at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Khim Chantrea, 23, one of four accused of trafficking brides to China, is escorted by officials after his hearing earlier this month at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Niem Chheng

Disparate charges in bride-trafficking case

Four people accused of attempting to traffic Cambodian women into China’s bridal trade were given disparate sentences in a verdict handed down on Friday, which could see three of the perpetrators released as early as next month.

Judge Y Thavrak sentenced Chan Sokhim, the mastermind behind the elaborate scheme – which involved the false promise of work in Singapore, smuggling women into Vietnam and a trip to Myanmar to obtain visas for China – to 10 years in prison. She was charged with “unlawful recruitment for exploitation”.

The sentence for Sokhim, who was on bail as she recently gave birth, was much more severe than that of her co-conspirators – Khim Chantrea and his mother, Bun Huor, and his aunt, Bun Sim.

The latter three were handed the minimum sentence of two years, with one year suspended, for their role in illegally crossing into Vietnam and entrapping the women. They were each fined 4 million riel (roughly $1,000).

The three were arrested in July last year and have almost served their one-year sentence for “receipt of a person for assisting the offender”.

Two of the victims, sisters Kean Nay and Kean Nee, said they, along with their sister and another woman, had been promised jobs in Singapore for $500 per month.

They only escaped after they failed to obtain visas for China in Myanmar. Upon their return to Vietnam, they encountered a woman who gave them money to flee and distracted their traffickers.

Sorn Kinal, defence lawyer for Chantrea and his relatives, insisted his clients were merely “helpers”.

“If the victims said my clients kidnapped them or exploited them illegally, why didn’t they run away in Myanmar and call police for help?” he said.

“I requested the court to lift the charge from them. They went to visit Myanmar and . . . just helped [the victims] fill out the form and took care of them and is that punishable? Let the law decide, let the court decide.”

Throughout the proceedings, prosecutor Che Song, was tough on the victims, warning them not to lie and saying there was “no evidence or witness against the accused”.

Touch Sarith, lawyer for Sokhim, and Ouk Sinaketh, a lawyer for the victims, yesterday claimed they did not know Friday’s verdict.

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