AUTHORITIES are reluctant to press charges against the owner of the Best Western
Cangi Hotel, Richard Chun, for trafficking seven Eastern European girls and coercing
them into prostitution.
Citing lack of evidence, after more than three days' investigation and thorough questioning
of the seven girls, the case has been passed from the prosecutor's office at Phnom
Penh Municipal Court to investigating judge Mong Mony Chakrya. Chakrya has previously
been under pressure from powerful people in other high-profile cases.
Human rights groups believe there is already plenty of evidence against Chun. In
their testimonies, the girls-five Romanians and two Moldovans-have told of being
threatened by Chun when they refused to have sex with customers. And they say they
were forbidden to leave the hotel without being accompanied by one of Chun's staff.
When military police raided the Best Western Cangi Hotel on Aug 13 and rescued the
girls from the two rooms they were sharing, Chun was found in possession of the girls'
passports. He denied involvement in any kind of trafficking or prostitution.
The reluctance to press charges against Chun may indicate the involvement of high-level
officials. The nightclub at the Best Western Tai-Ming Plaza, where the seven girls
were taken every night, is known to be frequented by high-ranking CPP associates.
"That's one reason it is so difficult to combat trafficking," says an NGO
worker who works on trafficking issues. "A lot of the traffickers are protected.
They are connected all the way up."
At least one Government official has been implicated in the affair. So Mara, the
Director-General at the Ministry of Tourism and Director-General of the National
Tourism Authority, had taken one of the Moldovan girls to the beach in Sihanoukville
on the morning of the hotel raid. The girl later returned safely to Phnom Penh.
Mara said she was only with him as a "friend". However, the seven girls
said Mara was a regular customer at the Tai-Ming Plaza nightclub. They said he came
every night, often accompanied by Thai tourists. Karaoke suite No 15 is exclusively
reserved for Mara, according to one investigator.
The court has issued an arrest warrant for the Romanian woman, Norica Topir-ceanu,
who recruited the girls and brought them to Phnom Penh. She has not been seen since
The seven girls left Phnom Penh on Aug 16 to fly to their home countries.