Complaint Filed on Behalf of 83 Hotel Workers

A complaint has been filed at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on be­half of 83 women and girls em­ployed by the Chai Hour II Hotel, al­­leging that the NGO Afesip illegally detained and defamed them following a Dec 7 anti-trafficking raid on the hotel, Ouk Savuth, the court’s chief prosecutor said Monday. 

The complaint demands that Afe­sip pay each female $20,000 for incorrectly identifying them as sex workers and for holding them against their will at the anti-trafficking NGO’s women’s shelter, said Yin Wengka, who identified himself as the women and girls’ pro bono lawyer.

Yin Wengka added that he filed the complaint, thumbprinted by the females, with the court on Dec 13. Afesip has not yet been officially notified of the complaint, Aarti Kapoor, Afe­­­sip’s legal adviser, said Monday.

Reporters were not permitted to interview any of the women and girls at the hotel on Monday, due to the absence of their lawyer.

Kim Song, who identifies himself as the hotel’s accountant, reiterated his earlier denial that the hotel was involved in the sex trade, adding that customers have dwindled since the raid.

“Why doesn’t [Afesip] accuse other hotels in Phnom Penh with karaoke and massage of being brothels, too?” Kim Song said.

He dismissed the probe into the hotel that led to the anti-trafficking raid as “nonsense” and added that the hotel has a massage license issued by the Ministry of Tourism.

Recently installed Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said Monday that the hotel has been operating for many years and that he had not him­self licensed it.

The US is considering downgrading Cambodia’s status on its global human trafficking watch-dog list for its handling of the Dec 8 raid on Afesip’s women’s shelter, which led to the women being re­turned to the hotel. A downgrading could entail sanctions for Cambodia.

Some of the women and girls may have been manipulated into mak­ing their complaints, Mu So­chua, former minister of women’s af­fairs said Monday.

The government is waiting until investigations into the case conclude before taking a stance on what happened, said government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith.

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