Any blame for the Dec 7 raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel and the subsequent detentions of 83 women and girls at a women’s shelter run by the anti-trafficking NGO Afesip should be laid at the feet of National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, the organization said Wednesday.
Hok Lundy should be held responsible because he signed off on a request from the Interior Ministry’s anti-trafficking police to raid the hotel, Afesip said in response to charges by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong that Afesip appeared to illegally confine some of the women and girls taken from the hotel shortly before they were broken out of the shelter Dec 8.
Afesip also accused Hor Namhong of professional misconduct in making what it said were biased comments that could prejudice the results of the government’s investigation into the events of Dec 7 and Dec 8.
“Afesip refuses to accept being used as a scapegoat for this case,” Afesip’s legal adviser Aarti Kapoor said at a news conference.
Speaking in Paris, Hor Namhong was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying on Monday that the Afesip case was complicated “because among the 80 women, there are many who it seems [were] taken away and illegally confined by this NGO.”
Pierre Legros, Afesip’s former director and now consultant, warned Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday that the government’s handling of the case was putting Cambodia’s image and future development at stake.
“From a simple story of pimping, it’s becoming a political issue which could bring Cambodia into huge trouble,” Legros said at a news conference.
“The US, the UN and the World Bank are supporting Afesip,” he added. “I’m asking the prime minister to take into consideration that this issue is going to the highest political level in the world.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to answer questions Wednesday.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Hor Namhong’s remarks do not appear to be part of the official conclusion of the interministerial committee. But he warned that Afesip could face legal action if it is found to have illegally detained the women.
“Those who break the law must be [punished] by the law,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs announced the upcoming start of the second stage of a three year anti-trafficking initiative funded with $800,000 from the US Agency for International Development. The US Embassy declined to say whether the handling of the Afesip case will affect USAID support for anti-trafficking projects in Cambodia.
Ministry of Women’s Affairs Secretary of State You Ay declined to comment on the case on Wednesday. Repeated phone calls to Hok Lundy were unsuccessful.
(Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong)