Three people are expected to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to face charges of attempting to sell a three-month-old boy and two 20-year-old Vietnamese women to a Malaysia-based human trafficking network, police said.
The suspects, identified by police as Vietnamese nationals Lam Thi May, 40, Nguyen Taing, 44, and Ros Mayan, 33, a Cambodian woman, were arrested in a joint operation by Phnom Penh and Banteay Meanchey province Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection units.
Police arrested Lam Thi May on Thursday in front of Calmette Hospital as she attempted to take the baby to Banteay Meanchey, said Meng Say, Phnom Penh Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection police chief.
Ros Mayan planned to meet Lam Thi May there and act as the boy’s mother in order to carry him across the Thai border in exchange for 1,000 baht, or about $25, but she was arrested in Banteay Meanchey provincial town the same day, Meng Say said.
Lam Thi May bought the baby from an unknown person for $180, said police, adding that they did not know where the boy was purchased in Cambodia nor where he was destined for in Malaysia.
The boy is being cared for at a center run by the Municipal Social Affairs Department.
Police identified the third suspect, Nguyen Taing, after asking Lam Thi May to phone him regarding plans to smuggle two Vietnamese women to Thailand and then on to Malaysia.
Nguyen Taing was arrested Friday at Phnom Penh’s Kandal market with two women and one of their mothers, Meng Say said.
“Those Vietnamese girls might have been cheated [by being told] they were going for jobs,” he said.
“They had just arrived in Cambodia, which is why we could arrest them.”
Police said Lam Thi May and Nguyen Taing, both of whom reside in Kuala Lumpur but were regular visitors to Cambodia, are involved in a criminal ring in Malaysia. They had been under investigation for some time, Meng Say said.
Human trafficking is on the increase, said Choun Vath, chief of Banteay Meanchey province’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Against Exploitation unit.
“Human trafficking is a lucrative and easy business,” she said. “Cambodia’s law has…some holes in it, which is why law enforcement is not successful,” she added.
Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said smuggling networks are widespread and are preying on the poverty-stricken who are forced to let their children travel with other people or relatives in the hope of finding work.
“They leave remote areas and become vulnerable for human smuggling,” Kek Galabru said. “Some victims are poisoned with drugs in order to make them confident to go [with smugglers],” she added.