Rights group lauds bust but says police must do more to combat rampant sex trade that often sees little interference from authorities
RAMPING UP RAIDS
Since new anti-trafficking legislation was passed in June, police have ramped up brothel dragnets, closing karaoke bars and booking people on the street. But the law has been met with contention by sex workers, who claim police abuse women during raids.
A POLICE operation involving human trafficking and juvenile protection officers has rescued 16 women, including three under the age of 15 years, who were locked in a brothel in Battambang's Sampov Loun district and sold for sex, officials said Monday.
"We have freed 16 girls including three who were underage, and detained the brothel owner," Police Chief Commissioner Kong Sokhorn told the Post Monday, describing the madam as a widow in her 40s.
Kong Sokhorn said that the women were repeatedly tortured and drugged by the owner's three sons, who escaped during the bust, if they did not provide men with sexual services.
"We have arrested the woman and are now hunting for her three sons who escaped during the crackdown," he said.
Kuy Heang, director of anti-trafficking operations at the juvenile protection bureau, said Monday that the owner was a woman named Vanny, whose sons acted as guards over the women.
"The three sons would torture the girls if they declined to serve men for sex or argued with the men who didn't use condoms," he told the Post.
Victims of trade
One of the victims, 31-year-old So Nuch, told the Post Monday that she had been lured to the district by a woman in Poipet, who promised to find her a job as a karaoke singer.
"When I got there, I was locked in a room with the other girls and forced to sleep with men," she said. "When we declined, we were tortured by the brothel owner's sons."
Kong Sokhorn said the owner has been charged with prostitution and torture and that the victims had been sent to the Social Affairs Department to receive counselling.
When I got there I was locked in a room... and forced to sleep with men.
Heng Say Hong from the legal NGO Licadho said Monday that he welcomed the intervention by police, but that lax attitudes towards wrongdoers in the past set bad precedents.
"During my investigation in Battambang province, I have found more than 10 brothels that continue to run despite the police cracking down on them many times since 1999," he said. "Some wrongdoers were sent to the court but were released after a short time in detention."
Kong Sokhorn said he agreed the situation needed tighter monitoring.
"I agree that there are still several brothels, but many of them operate behind houses or restaurants, making it harder for us to crack down."