Thirteen sex workers were charged with illegal immigration in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday after they answered questions regarding their residency status.
The 13 women—some of whom appeared to be young girls—were arrested after foreigner police raided a Daun Penh district guest house they say was operating as a brothel, court deputy prosecutor Nget Sarath said.
Twenty-one girls were taken out of the Pen Vong guest house Friday. Police determined that seven were under the age of 17 and were taken to the NGO Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights. One of the remaining women “escaped,” Nget Sarath said.
Municipal Foreigner Police Chief Pol Pithey said Sunday that the owner of the guest house also “escaped” during the raid.
Nget Sarath charged all 13 women with illegal immigration, he said, even though some of them had documents proving they were legal citizens. It is up to the trial judge to decide their fate, he said.
A court official familiar with the case said “the interrogation was only related to the background of the women and their [potential] illegal entry into Cambodia.”
Most of the women, none of whom would divulge their identities, said they were born in Cambodia and most spoke Khmer. “I am Cambodian, I do not know why the court wants to send me to Vietnam,” said one woman.
The official said no date has been set for the trial and that the women will continue to be detained by the municipal police. He added “he will try to find a defense lawyer for the women.”
On Monday, a meeting of provincial governors was held by the Ministry of Interior to discuss the registration of foreigners in Cambodia.
Officials at the meeting stressed the government should crack down on illegal Vietnamese immigrants.
Last month, Ministry of Interior police, acting on a court order, arrested on immigration charges 14 Vietnamese girls and women who had been rescued from a Svay Pak brothel.