A SEX worker was badly injured in a dramatic bid for freedom earlier this month,
but her injuries have led to the arrest and detention of the woman who allegedly
trafficked and kept her prisoner.
The Vietnamese woman, Tui (not her real name), jumped from a second-storey window
above a popular expatriate restaurant on Sisowath Quay, after she realized that two
younger sex workers, for whom she was responsible, had managed to flee the building
where they were all being held captive.
According to Eva Galabru of Licadho, the woman, who suffered back injuries and a
broken heel, had been bought from a brothel in Svay Pak, along with two other women,
and imprisoned in the riverside building.
On September 3, two of the sex workers asked to buy cakes on the street below, but
were refused permission by their trafficker, Leang Sokheng.
After Tui promised that they would return, Sokheng let them go, but when Tui realized
sometime later that her two co-captives were not coming back, she threw herself out
of the window in an attempt to avoid punishment from Sokheng.
Human rights workers from several organizations were called to the scene and the
woman was taken to Calmette Hospital, according to Yean Kimlian, Deputy Chief of
Police at Psar Chas (Old Market), who was also called to the scene of the accident.
"We thought at first that she owed money to Leang Sokheng," said Kimlian,
"but later we realized that she had been bought by Sokheng and was trying to
escape. She was then taken to hospital."
According to rights workers, however, doctors at Calmette did not examine the victim
thoroughly, and when Sokheng arrived at the hospital shortly after, doctors let her
remove the victim, who was then taken to a house on Street 144.
"We had to go to the house to find the victim," said Kimlian. "When
I got there I found the woman sleeping on the floor and I told them that I was going
to arrest the woman [Sokheng]."
The victim was later examined by doctors provided by rights workers, and was found
to have abrasions to two vertebrae, a twisted spine and a broken heel. Although she
was offered refuge at a local shelter, Tui chose to go back to Svay Pak with her
mother, where she is recuperating.
Sokheng is now in T3 awaiting trial, having been charged with trafficking.
The case is unusual, say rights workers, because of the co-operation of the police
and the speed with which the trafficker was arrested and charged.
Traffickers are notoriously difficult to prosecute; one of the rights workers called
the case "a bit of a coup".
However, one element of the case remains unsolved: a mysterious Chinese man, Li Ming,
whose name appears on a business card that was given by Leang Sokheng to the owner
of the brothel in Svay Pak where she purchased the three women.
The card describes the services offered as "providing and supply the nice ladies
guide service center" - a very thinly disguised trafficking outfit, say rights
Witnesses at the scene described Leang Sokheng as the wife of the Chinese man, but
Kimlian said that he did not know about any such connection, or indeed how the man
"I cannot tell you that there is a Chinese person involved in this case, only
Leang Sokheng," he said, despite the fact that the address of the brothel owned
by Leang Sokheng appears on Li Ming's business card.
According to Galabru, the three women told Licadho that they had been given Chinese
lessons while they were captive, and that passports were being prepared for them.
She added that Licadho were still pushing for the Chinese man to be arrested.
Repeated attempts by the Post to contact Li Ming were unsuccessful.