17 Prostitutes Freed After Police Raid Hotel

Seventeen young women were sent to a Phnom Penh human rights agency Wednesday after a police raid in Banteay Meanchey province freed them from a hotel where they had been tricked into prostitution, officials said.

A raid on the O’Chrou Hotel in O’Chrou district freed the girls and led to the arrest of Rath Sophal, 42, who was in Banteay Meanchey court Tues­day on trafficking charges, police said.

The raid broke up a sex trafficking ring in the province, said Chhoeun Sokhom, Banteay Meanchey deputy police chief.

Rath Sophal is accused of recruiting the women, aged between 16 and 19, from Siem Reap, Battambang and Pursat provinces, police officials said.

The women, all from impoverished families, were tricked into the sex trade by promises of work in Banteay Meanchey, human rights officials said.

Customers were charged between $15 and $25 per sex session, most of which went to the traffickers, Adhoc officials said.

Their precarious economic situation made it likely they would end up back in the sex trade, so Adhoc agreed to bring them to Phnom Penh for vocational training, Lim Mony said.

“The reason we brought the girls here in Phnom Penh is because it can break them far away from a bad environment,” Lim Mony said. “They also have a good feeling so that they can start their learning in Phnom Penh. If we let them stay in Banteay Meanchey, I’m afraid they would go back to work as prostitutes.”

The raid on the Banteay Mean­chey hotel comes as the US is expected to issue a report condemning Cambodia and 18 other countries for not doing enough to prevent the “horrific practice” of international human trafficking.

The US State Department was scheduled to release the annual report Wednesday, which could lead to economic sanctions for the worst offenders, including Cambodia, according to The As­sociated Press.

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