Arrests Hint At New Route For Traffickers

A Vietnamese couple was arrested for trafficking and 10 girls and women were taken into custody Saturday, in an incident observers said is part of a growing trend. 

Phnom Penh, they say, is be­coming a stopping point where potential sex workers get fake Cambodian passports on their way from Vietnam to Malaysia.

Police found Keav Ham, 45, his wife, Den Ty Deak, 40, and another couple holding the five minors —four Vietnamese and one ethnic Khmer from Vietnam—and five adult Vietnamese women in a Daun Penh brothel, said Toch Ngem, chief of the anti-trafficking police bureau in the Ministry of Interior.

The second couple were re­leased when police determined that they were house workers unconnected to any crime. Keav Ham and Den Ty Deak are to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.

Toch Ngem said the five minors were intended to sell their virginity and continue working in the brothel here, while the five adults were to acquire Cambodian passports and fly to Malaysia.

He said all were sold by their families—one for $75—or tricked into coming to Cambodia. When two of the women found out the real reason they were being taken to Malaysia, they told a motorcycle taxi driver to tell the police.

A new trafficking route seems to be forming, going from Vietnam to Cambodia to Malaysia, said Christian Guth, an international police expert who, with funding from the UN, World Vision and other groups, advises the Ministry of Interior on anti-trafficking strategies.

This is the third time in three months that traffickers and their victims have been apprehended here on their way to Malaysia, he said. The victims somehow acquire Cambodian passports here, Guth said. Cambodians don’t need a visa to enter Malaysia, but Viet­namese do, according to official Web sites.

Officials don’t yet know if the several cases in the past year were connected, but the similarity of the incidents, and the perpetrators’ ability to acquire Cambodian passports, suggest an organized ring, Guth said.

Once they have passports, the girls go to Malaysia, where they become part of a largely unregulated sex industry in a country with a higher standard of living than Cambodia’s.

One human rights worker said that while Cambodia has long been a stop for Vietnamese on their way to Thailand, Malaysia is a new destination.

Police said the 10 victims found Saturday spent that night at a shelter run by the Ministry of Social Affairs. They were handed over to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center on Sunday.

Police said five of the women were released when they claimed they had family here to stay with. The other five were staying at the center Sunday, a CWCC worker said.


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