9 Underage Girls Rescued in Trafficking Raids

Two teenage girls were rescued Wednesday after a woman, accused of buy­ing the girls from their mothers, was arrested following a raid on a Phnom Penh guest house by the Interior Ministry’s anti-trafficking unit.

A second raid on the suspect’s home in Prampi Makara district turned up seven more underage girls whom police believe were being supplied to the child sex trade, said Un Sokunthea, director of the anti-trafficking unit.

Trafficking suspect Keo Leap, 40, is accused of trying to sell the two teenagers, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old for $2,000 to foreigners seeking sex with virgins, Un Sokunthea said Thurs­day. Police also arrested a 45-year-old mother, Nhem Norm, during the second raid and have accused her of selling her 16-year-old daughter to Keo Leap for $400, he added.

“Through our law, even a mother who sells her daughter for sexual intercourse or smuggling to another country must be punished,” Un Sokunthea said. He added that the penalty could be be­tween 15 and 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the anti-trafficking NGO International Justice Mission participated in Wednesday’s raid.

A member of IJM, who asked not to be identified, said the NGO had been investigating the suspects for four days and had tipped po­lice to the two teenagers’ situation after ga­ther­ing evidence. He said one of the two girls had been sold by her mother and the other by her stepmother. He said the trafficking suspect had been trying to sell the girls for about a week.

“That’s why we acted as quickly as we did,” he said.

IJM is taking care of the rescued girls, he added.

Suspects Keo Leap and Nhem Norm were taken to the municipal court for questioning in relation to the accusations, Un Sok­un­thea said.


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