Afesip called for the removal and prosecution of any government officials who colluded with human traffickers in the events following the Dec 7 police raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel, according to a statement released Wednesday.
Afesip also called on the government to establish which officials protected the hotel, Afesip’s former director and now consultant Pierre Legros said.
Following the raid on the hotel, which was accused of operating as a brothel, eight suspects were released, and on Dec 8, a group of men and women allegedly stormed Afesip’s women’s shelter and removed 83 females who were initially taken from the hotel.
Legros declined to name officials who may have been involved in protecting the hotel. “It’s too sensitive,” he said.
Asked about Afesip’s claims that officials are protecting the hotel, government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday: “Anywhere you have some protection.” He added that Cambodia should not be singled out.
Khieu Kanharith proposed that Afesip remove Somaly Mam from her position as president of the organization and replace her with a board of directors.
Somaly Mam “puts herself in the spotlight as a victim” and is preoccupied with generating donor money, he charged.
“We praise Afesip. They’re doing a good job, but why not change the [president],” he added. He also suggested an audit of the NGO’s spending.
Somaly Mam would not speak directly to reporters Wednesday, but, speaking through legal advisor Aarti Kapoor, she said she wants to work with the government, which until now has never mentioned it wants her removed.
Afesip has no plan to replace Somaly Mam, Kapoor said.
Although the government’s interministerial committee established to investigate the Dec 8 raid on the Afesip shelter released its findings Feb 17, the Interior Ministry is continuing to investigate the Afesip case, Ing Kuntha Phavy, Minister of Women’s Affairs, said Wednesday.
“The [interministerial] report is not the last output and is not the position of the government,” she said. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he was too busy to comment Wednesday.