Less than six months after he was arrested in the beating death of a 24-year-old captive prostitute, Poipet brothel owner Miet Bunrith is not only free, he is back in business.
Banteay Meanchey Governor Duong Khem and the human rights group Adhoc confirmed Wednesday that Miet Bunrith reopened his brothel shortly after he was released from jail amid accusations of bribery.
“His activity now is getting stronger than ever,” said Lim Mony, head of Adhoc’s women’s affairs department in Phnom Penh.
She said Adhoc has learned Miet Bunrith reopened the brothel with funds from Thai businessmen and protection from powerful military officials in Poipet.
Miet Bunrith was arrested June 25 in the beating death of Neang Thy Pheung, who had been kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute for a year. The arrest was hailed by rights workers as a first step toward ending the impunity of sex traffickers with high connections.
At the time of his arrest, 11 rescued prostitutes signed affidavits saying they saw Miet Bunrith use a board to beat the woman unconscious. She died of head, neck and back injuries four days later.
Nevertheless, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court cited a lack of evidence when it released Miet Bunrith on Sept 15.
Because of the strong evidence against the brothel owner, rights workers and government officials alike have said they believe Miet Bunrith bought his way out of trouble. Duong Khem said at the time he had heard that Miet Bunrith paid about $4,000 to unspecified court officials for his freedom.
On Wednesday, the provincial governor repeated his suspicions, although he had no evidence to prove them. “I don’t feel good that this guy was freed by the court and allowed back to the brothel,” Duong Khem said. “But you and everyone else know how it is in Cambodia.”
The governor said he could do nothing about Miet Bunrith reopening his brothel. “It is the court’s affair. If he was released, he can open his business if he wants.”
Human rights workers had urged Neang Thy Pheung’s mother to file an appeal to seek justice for her dead daughter. However, Lim Mony said the mother told Adhoc that Miet Bunrith had threatened to kill her if she appealed.
The mother has since fled to Bangkok, Lim Mony said.
Neither Miet Bunrith nor Banteay Meanchey courts could be reached for comment Wednesday. Mao Chandara, chief of staff for the Ministry of Interior’s National Police, said he was not aware of Miet Bunrith’s case.