A human trafficker was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday for recruiting and delivering three young women from Cambodia to Malaysia to serve as prostitutes after promising them well-paid work in that country’s garment industry last year.
Judge Keo Mony of Phnom Penh Municipal Court said that Sok Panha, also known as Voung, 36, was convicted of “selling, buying or exchanging a person with purpose” under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.
Panha rejected the charges after hearing the verdict yesterday.
“I cannot accept it. I will appeal to court soon,” she said.
According to Colonel So Mandy, chief of the capital’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection unit, police arrested Panha on August 20 after receiving complaints from the three victims following their escape from a Malaysian brothel.
“She was arrested by our police after one of the rescued victims gave her a phone call, setting up a meeting at Sre Leap guesthouse [in Phnom Penh],” he said.
In Malaysia, two Chinese-Malaysian men are now awaiting trial after being arrested by local authorities for their involvement in the case.
Several victimised women currently remain under the protection of the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia in order to appear as witnesses at the men’s trial.
One 22-year-old victim, now back in Cambodia and studying at university, said she had known Panha for two months before she was introduced by her to a Chinese-Malaysian man named Mai, and was sent to work in Malaysia’s garment industry along with two other women, aged 23 and 27, in May.
“I decided to accept to go to Malaysia because I was promised a salary of $700 to $800 per month,” she said.
“But when we arrived in Malaysia, we were forced to sleep with foreign men in a hotel there. The pay was taken by Mai.”
By the end of the month, the young women managed to escape and flee to the Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur for help and intervention.