Te Pao Ly, the owner of the infamous Chai Hour II Hotel, was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for colluding with two human traffickers and for illegally owning a K-59 handgun, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Kong Seth said.
The two female traffickers, Khun Nary, 23 and Sann Sreynit, 21, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to sell their younger housemate’s virginity for $1,000, he said on Sunday.
The hotel’s manager Sam Leng was also sentenced to four years in prison for colluding in trafficking.
“The court verdict was unjust,” said Seng Vuochhun, Te Pao Ly’s lawyer, adding that he plans to appeal his 39-year-old client’s case next week. “[When] the police raided the hotel, my client was not inside. His gun has a permit and it is still valid.”
Huy Sokun, the lawyer for both women, also said the verdict was unfair.
“My clients reject the municipal court verdict. The punishment is too heavy. Their action was only as brokers,” Huy Sokun said, adding that he too planned to appeal. He said his clients were not guilty of trafficking because they didn’t force their housemate into the arrangement.
In court on Feb 7, the 17-year-old said she asked her two housemates to sell her virginity because she needed money for her family.
Kong Seth said the four have two months to appeal.
The Chai Hour II first gained notoriety Dec 7, 2004, when police and the anti-trafficking NGO Afesip raided the hotel, removing 83 women and girls and taking them to an Afesip shelter. The following day, about 30 men descended on the shelter, forced open its entrance gate and removed the females.
Following the scandal that ensued, the US leveled limited sanctions against Cambodia for its poor anti-trafficking efforts. Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said she welcomed prosecution of traffickers but felt the sentences in this case were unfair.
“I think it is good that traffickers are prosecuted and punished…I hope the authorities continue in this direction,” she said. “But by definition the traffickers and their accomplices commit the same crime.”