Child Brothel Owner Given Twenty Years

A Vietnamese woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday, and her son to five years, for peddling child prostitutes in Phnom Penh—believed to be the stiffest sentence ever handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for such an offense.

Nguyen Thi Lang, 51, known as “Mamasan Lang” to child protection investigators, marched stoically from the courtroom, followed by her son, Nguyen Ba May, 26, after the sentence was imposed.

Presiding Judge Ham Meng Se told the courtroom that the woman was found guilty of prostituting girls, one aged 10 years, two aged 12 years, one 14-year-old and one 16-year-old, at her coffee shop in Daun Penh district. She was also accused of operating a brothel in the notorious red-light district in Svay Pak commune, Russei Keo district.

Nguyen Ba May was guilty of being an accomplice in his mother’s operation at Cafe 9999, Ham Meng Se said.

“These repeated acts spread bad effects in society, particularly in sex tourism. So [Nguyen Thi Lang] should be seriously

punished and adding to that, not allowed to stay in Cambodia,” said Ham Meng Se, who also ordered the accused to be deported back to Vietnam after she completes her jail sentence.

“This is my first time to punish a brothel owner with 20 years in jail. It was the worse case ever,” Ham Meng Se said after the trial.

The jail terms were handed down following a morninglong trial that included the showing of undercover video footage of Nguyen Thi Lang offering children for sex at her cafe in January and February 2003.

An investigator with the US-based group International Justice Mission, who obtained the in­crimi­nating video evidence, was in court to explain the images shot with a hidden camera.

Grainy black-and-white images on a television set up in the courtroom showed Nguyen Thi Lang preparing the room for the undercover IJM investigator and explaining the cost of various sex acts that girls aged 10 and 14 would perform.

In her defense, Nguyen Thi Lang testified that she was working with the Ministry of Interior to entrap those seeking sex with children.

Her claim was rebutted by Prosecutor Khut Sopheang.

IJM’s investigators and video-taped evidence were also presented to the Municipal Court in October during the trial of six ethnic Vietnamese people who were convicted of human trafficking related to the child sex trade in Svay Pak.

Evidence presented at Thurs­day’s trial and at the October trial was compiled during the IJM’s investigations in early 2003.  Police acted on the evidence in late March, rescuing 37 women and children from brothels. More than a dozen arrests were made.

“This is a very good day for the children of Cambodia,” said Sharon Cohn, IJM’s senior counsel for interventions, after the court hearing.

“We think a 20-year sentence is fitting for the crimes the defendant committed and are very pleased that the court found the evidence persuasive,” she added.

Cohn also announced that IJM plans to open an office in Phnom Penh in March.

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