13 Charged In Svay Pak Brothel Raid

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged 13 men and women from Vietnam with trafficking and drug distribution in connection with Saturday’s brothel raids in Svay Pak commune, officials said.

Khut Sokheng, the court’s de­p­uty prosecutor, charged seven women and six men with trafficking humans and conspiracy to traffic humans after interrogating the accused for more than five hours at the Courthouse.

Several of the men were also charged with dealing drugs after po­lice confiscated methamphetamines from one of the brothels.

“We found drugs on the indivi­duals and used videos and photo albums confiscated from the broth­els” as evidence against the 13 accused, Major Phoung Sophy of the anti-trafficking unit of the Ministry of Interior said on Tues­day. “The videos showed some of the [accused] being in­volved in trafficking.”

The Ministry of Interior re­turned the 13 men and wom­­en to the ministry’s detention facility, but will return them to the court so the investigating judge can decide bail, Phoung Sophy said.

The charges stem from Satur­day’s brothel raid conducted by the Ministry of Interior, which worked on evidence provided by the US-based NGO International Justice Mission.

The NGO provided the Minis­try of Interior with evidence ac­crued over two months showing the extensive human trafficking problem in the notorious Svay Pak brothel district.

Thirty-seven trafficking victims from Vietnam, the majority of whom are underage, were rescued from brothels and are residing in safe houses in Phnom Penh.

Several of the accused on Tues­day maintained their innocence and characterized the arrests as a mistake by the police, whom they said were confused during the six-hour raid.

“Police arrested me and my daughter at my house [in Svay Pak] where I sell medicine,” said Kong Vimean, 52, who identified herself as a native of the Kam­pu­chea Krom area of Vietnam. Speak­ing at the court, she denied any involvement in human trafficking or the prostitution trade.

“I am not a mama-san,” she said.

Another man charged on Tues­day, Sok Ahn, 40, denied any involvement in the sex industry and said he was merely swept up in the general confusion of the raid.

“I was a customer at a coffee shop in Svay Pak and when the raid occurred I just went to help a girl who fell in the middle of the street,” Sok Ahn said. “The police then caught me and pushed me into a truck.”

Originally from Vietnam, Sok Ahn said he had come to Phnom Penh recently to find work as a construction worker.

“I am not a customer or worker in the brothel,” he said.

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