The Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal on January 18 heard the case of a woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for attempting to traffic seven underage Cambodian women to Malaysia.

According to a statement read out by Presiding Judge Phou Pov Sun, the case involved three defendants, but only Um Rada, 35, had appealed the sentence handed down by the lower court.

It said that in early June 2016, a woman named Chan Sokhim had convinced seven young women from Kampong Thom province that they could get high-paying jobs in Singapore. Sokhim then brought the women to stay temporarily at Rada’s house in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.

While the seven women were staying there, Rada told them that they would not go to work in Singapore, but in Malaysia.

Another alleged accomplice named Sam Yong tried to obtain documents to register the seven for passports. She went to Chaom Chao commune authorities in an attempt to change the ages and names of the underage victims so that they could apply for passports.

However, commune authorities were suspicious and alerted the Anti-Human Trafficking Department police, who arrested the three suspects and released the victims.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Rada and Sokhim in December 2019 to 16 years in prison on charges of human trafficking under Article 11 of the law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. Yong was sentenced to one year in prison for providing false documents.

Rada told the court that she had filed her appeal because the lower court had sentenced her to 16 years which she said was too long. She said she had no one to take care of her three children.

“I am asking the court to reduce my sentence so that I can go home and take care of my children who are just 13, 12 and 7 years old. Before, they had my father to take care of them, but my father died of Covid 19 three months ago,” she said.

Appeal Court prosecutor Im Sophan suggested that a clemency be granted as the accused had pleaded guilty.

“The lower court’s sentencing of the accused woman to 16 years is correct, but the accused should receive some commutation because the crime failed to happen,” he said.

Lay Lundy, defence lawyer for Rada, said he agreed with the prosecutor and urged the court to show clemency to his client.

“My client has confessed at all stages. Therefore, I would like the court to reduce her sentence,” he said.

A verdict is due on January 28.