The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center was criticized by police on Monday for allowing 10 Vietnamese prostitutes, aged 8 to 16 years old, who were rescued last month from a Phnom Penh brothel, to leave its care last week and speed away on motorbikes driven by men they seemed to know.
The girls’ testimony would have been the key evidence against the brothel’s owner and manager, said Touch Ngim, a juvenile protection officer with the Ministry of Interior.
“If they cannot find them, I will file a lawsuit against this NGO [CWCC] for allowing the girls to run away,” he said Monday.
The girls had repeatedly asked CWCC staff to let them go home ever since arriving at the center after the April 29 raid in Daun Penh district, CWCC monitor Nop Sarin Sreiroth said Monday.
On Thursday, a van from the NGO International Justice Mission pulled up to the CWCC compound to transport the girls to a new care facility.
But instead of going to the van, the girls bolted toward a group of people waiting nearby who called to them by name, said Ruth Elliott, an IJM after-care coordinator who was at CWCC that day to help relocate the girls.
She shouted for help, but no guards were manning the CWCC gates, she said.
“They let the children out. They didn’t stop them and they ran out to their families. CWCC just let the children go,” Elliott said.
The men with whom the girls left had been hanging out around the center all week, CWCC’s Nop Sarin Sreiroth said.
“Some of the moto drivers are their fathers, middlemen or could be the brothel owner’s friends,” she said. “It was a well-organized plan to bring the girls out of the center.”
CWCC policy allows those under its care to leave the center at any time of their own free will, said director Oung Chantol Monday.
“There is no law to allow CWCC or an NGO or anyone to confine people,” she said.