Ex-Trafficking Official Arrested In Extortion Case

A former deputy director of the In­terior Ministry’s anti-human traf­ficking and juvenile protection de­partment, charged earlier this year with extorting money from brothel owners in return for re­leasing them from custody, has been arrested, police said Sunday.

Touch Ngim was suspended from work on March 23, accused of extorting money and taking bribes from brothel owners in the wake of a September 2004 police raid during which 41 sex workers were removed from a Kompong Speu province brothel.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Kim Ravy announced in September that Touch Ngim had been charged, though he had remained at large since then.

“The penal police department did the arrest and we have not questioned him yet,” said Sok Phal, deputy national police commissioner.

A senior penal police official said Touch Ngim was arrested at his house near Phnom Penh In­terna­tional Airport on Thurs­day, and is being detained by the In­terior Ministry’s anti-terrorism de­partment.

“He hid himself there and we just found him,” the official said.

Kim Ravy said he had heard from media reports that Touch Ngim had been arrested, but was unaware of a date for his court ap­pearance.

The head of the anti-trafficking department, Un Soku­nthea, said she had not heard about the ar­rest.

Chea Vuth, a former deputy pro­vincial police chief in Kom­pong Speu, was suspended at the same time as Touch Ngim but was never charged with a crime. He now works as an officer at the Interior Ministry’s penal police de­partment.

Contacted on Sunday, he said he was pleased with the arrest, adding that he had faced problems because of Touch Ngim’s conduct.

“If he was arrested, I am happy,” Chea Vuth said. “I faced the danger [of removal] be­cause of his taking bribes.”

The US Embassy also welcomed news of the arrest. “We welcome any effort by the Cambo­dian government to combat the trafficking of persons, especially the arrest and prosecution of officers complicit in trafficking,” said embassy spokes­man John Daigle.

On Oct 1, the US Embassy brought limited sanctions into ef­fect against Cambodia for its poor anti-trafficking efforts, after downgrading Cambodia in June to the bot­­tom tier on its anti-trafficking watchdog list.

One of the reasons given for the downgrading was Cambo­dia’s failure to convict public officials in­volved in trafficking.

Though he didn’t know the specifics of the case, John Mc­Geo­ghan, a project officer with the International Migration Organiza­tion who works with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs on human trafficking prevention, said the government’s efforts to hold officials responsible for their involvement in trafficking was a positive step.

“That bodes well in that there’s some accountability,” he said, adding that over the past five years the government has jumped ahead of other countries in the region in its fight against trafficking.

McGeoghan also noted that until five years ago, Cambodia did not even have an anti-trafficking department. “We’re making good progress,” he said.


Related Stories

Latest News