Phnom Penh Municipal Court has freed one of three suspects charged in connection with the Chai Hour II Hotel human trafficking case, calling his detention a mistake, court Director Chiv Keng said Sunday.
Em Mardy was arrested in February at the Leang Hour Hotel—as the Chai Hour II was renamed after an earlier high-profile bust—and was mistakenly believed to be the hotel’s supervisor, he said. “We have mistakenly detained him for a few months,” Chiv Keng said.
He added that Em Mardy was in fact a land speculator from Siem Reap province who had come to Phnom Penh to discuss business with one of the other suspects.
Mong Kim Keng, director of Prey Sar prison, said Em Mardy was released shortly before the Khmer New Year but that the other two suspects in the case, Te Pao Ly and Som Leang, remained behind bars awaiting trial.
During an anti-trafficking raid on the Chai Hour II in December 2004, more than 80 women and girls were removed and taken to a shelter run by the NGO Afesip. The following day, a group of men attacked the shelter and took the females away. They were never returned.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Feb 21 expressed concern that the two men convicted in Feb 2006 for their roles in the case had been released.
Earlier that month, the municipal court again charged the two, Te Pao Ly and Som Leang, along with Em Mardy, with pimping, debauchery and human trafficking related offenses at the same hotel, by then renamed the Leang Hour.
In a television interview broadcast May 1, National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy said that, in an April 24 meeting in Washington, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill had mentioned the Chai Hour II case and encouraged Hok Lundy to continue combating human-trafficking.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Sunday the embassy would examine the latest release.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak declined comment on the court’s order but added: “The ministry has ordered the Leang Hour Hotel to be closed forever.”
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)