Couple on Trial for Buying Baby to Use as Beggar

A Cambodian husband and wife who paid $400 to adopt a baby in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district denied accusations in court Wednesday that they intended to bring the child with them to Malaysia specifically to help them make money as beggars.

Heng Chhon, 48, and his wife Sam Nang, 38, were arrested in November 2013 while attempting to cross the Poipet border en route to Malaysia with the baby, two other children and another man.

“You are both charged with human trafficking,” Presiding Judge Taing Sun Lay told the couple in court Wednesday.

Lawyers representing Mr. Chhon and Ms. Nang argued they gave money to the baby’s parents out of pity, not as an outright purchase.

“They gave the baby’s family $400 but it does not mean that they bought her,” said Choung Choungy, the lawyer representing Mr. Chhon.

Cheat Sokha, Ms. Nang’s lawyer, said the couple was simply taking the baby with them to Malaysia because they had no one to leave the baby with in Cambodia.

“I request the judge to release my client because the charge of human trafficking is not true,” said Ms. Sokha.

Mr. Chhon admitted he has traveled to beg for money in Malaysia in the past but denied he was bringing the baby with him for that purpose when arrested.

“I do not accept the charge because I am not a trafficker,” Mr. Chhon said. “I decided to travel to beg in Malaysia [in the past] because it was easy to make money.”

But Keo Thea, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking police, told the court that the couple has a history of trafficking vulnerable people to Malaysia to make money by begging.

“They both used to bring many other poor people and children to work as beggars in Malaysia in the past before the arrest,” Mr. Thea said.

The couple faces 15 to 20 years in prison if found guilty. Judge Sun Lay said a verdict is due on July 25.

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