Court Charges Pair With Trafficking Deaf, HIV-Positive Minor

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday heard the case of a woman and her male accomplice who are charged with trafficking a deaf and HIV-positive 13-year-old girl to a brothel in Chamkar Mon district.

The hearing was held behind closed doors due to the presence of the underage victim.

“Lounh Chan, 28, and Em Sophea, 44, were charged with human trafficking [the girl] to a brothel for sex,” presiding Judge Kim Dany said afterward. The court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr. Chan, who is being tried in absentia after escaping arrest, she added.

Ms. Sophea and Mr. Chan were charged in July after police received a complaint from Sok Phalla, the executive director of New Hope for Cambodian Children (NHCC), an NGO that supports children with HIV/AIDS and had been providing a home for the victim since her parents died of AIDS five years ago.

The victim, who resides at the NHCC orphanage in Kompong Speu province, had gone to visit a classmate at her home in Phnom Penh in June and then gone missing for two days.

When she returned, she told staff that she had been sent to a brothel in Phnom Penh and raped. The classmate’s mother was Ms. Sophea.

The victim’s defense lawyer, San Sodalen, said she spent one night in a brothel in Tonle Bassac commune, where she was forced to have sex with multiple men, before managing to escape.

Mr. Phalla of NHCC said tests had confirmed the child had been raped.

“We sent her to a hospital in Takhmao City…and a doctor told police that she had been raped,” Mr. Phalla said.

The victim’s lawyer, Mr. Sodalen, said that Ms. Sophea rejected the charge against her Monday, telling the court that she had been out when the victim came to her home to visit her daughter.

Chea Sarun, 33, a child minder at the orphanage who spoke as a witness in the case, said after the hearing: “We know that she went missing one night in June and when she returned to the center she looked in a bad condition.”

“She told me that she was detained and raped,” she added.

Ms. Sophea faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years for trafficking a minor. The trial continues Tuesday.

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