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Paid to protect brothels

Paid to protect brothels

The former head of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking police was tried in absentia yesterday for soliciting protection money from brothel owners and paying officers to hide under-age sex workers, even after he was sacked.

Eam Rattana, former chief of the Phnom Penh municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police office, was sacked in 2009 but allegedly continued to help brothel owners until he was charged with corruption in April this year.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn said the 54-year-old, who fled into hiding shortly after a warrant was issued for his arrest, provided protection to three men running sexual services out of their coffee shops.

“Eam Rattana ordered his closest people to collect money for him from a number of brothels for his protection from police crackdowns or arrests,” Duch Kimsorn said.

Eam Rattana is accused of providing protection to Sok Heng, 53, Ly Mao, 45, and  Nguyen Yaing Tung, 50, even after being demoted to deputy chief of staff for the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner.

Sok Heng was arrested during a raid on his coffee shop in Daun Penh district’s Boeung Raing commune. Ly Mao and Nguven Yaing Tung managed to evade capture.

Municipal anti-human trafficking police officer Pov Heng testified that, during a meeting in October, 2010, Eam Rattana had asked him to provide information about investigations into brothel owners who paid him a monthly fee and to alert him to raids against them.

“To do this for him, I was paid an extra [US]$200 by him per month. I got this money from him every month, on the fifth at the beginning of every new month,” Pov Heng said.

Another of Eam Rattana’s former subordinates, Sok Reaksmey, said the accused had paid him to hide sex workers under 18 years old during the raids.

“I also received $200 from him per month,” Sok Reaksmey said.

Defendant Sok Heng denied he had run a brothel from his coffee shop and said he had merely borrowed money occasionally from his old friend Eam Rattana, whom he had known since 1986.  

But he alleged he had collected money from brothel owners for his boss’ replacement, current chief of the Phnom Penh municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police office, Keo Thea. “I used to collect US$2,500 from five brothels to Keo Thea every per month. I gave him [the money] via his police officer, Sreng Hong,” he said. 

Keo Thea said the accusation was completely false and motivated by spite because he had replaced Eam Rattana after he was sacked for corruption. “As a competent police official, I have always strictly obeyed police discipline and the laws. I could not commit this stupid thing. I think that this accusation is aimed at destroying my good profile, reputation and honour,” he said.

Prosecutor Hor Lina told the court there was sufficient evidence to meet the burden of proof against all the accused. “I would like to ask the court to decide on their case and punish them by the law,” he said.

Ly Mao, Nguven Yaing Tung and their lawyers could not be reached for comment. The verdicts are expected on Tuesday.

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