F’pec Officials’ Trafficking Trial Is Delayed

The Appeals Court postponed the trial of two Funcinpec officials for alleged human trafficking in­definitely on Monday, after they both fail­ed to show up to the hearing, Judge Thou Mony said Wed­nes­­­day.

Daun Penh district Deputy Gov­ernor Pich Socheata and Kratie prov­ince First Deputy Governor Vorn Chhunly were set to appear in court to face trafficking accusations stemming from a 2001 lawsuit filed against them by their alleged victim’s mother.

The lawsuit accuses Pich Soche­ata of introducing the then-17-year-old to Vorn Chhunly for sex, said the lawyer for the alleged victim, Yong Phanith of the legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project.

In 2002, Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth dismiss­ed the case because he be­lieved the teenager had had a consenting sexual relationship with Vorn Chhunly, who is also the direc­tor of the Interior Ministry’s maritime police border department.

The case has been delayed since then in the Appeals Court be­­cause the two suspects did not have lawyers to represent them, Thou Mony said.

Pich Socheata and Vorn Chhun­ly both said they were innocent of hu­man trafficking.

Pich Socheata said she did not sell the girl to Vorn Chhunly, add­ing that she did not attend Mon­day’s hearing because she was in Thailand.

She said she had only taken the teen­ager, who worked at Funcin­pec party headquarters at the time, to Vorn Chhunly’s Kat­hen ce­remony in Kratie, in 2001.

“It was a love affair between the two,” Pich Socheata said, adding that the allegations have ruined her own reputation and that the girl’s mother has only sued her to try to get money.

Vorn Chhunly said he had a consenting relationship with the 17-year-old, adding that he did not attend the court hearing because he had not been summoned.

“We loved each other and it was already over,” he said. “The mother misunderstood.”

Pich Socheata and Vorn Chhun­­­ly said they did not believe the case had been unearthed af­ter four years as part of an anti-sleaze crusade launched against Fun­cin­pec by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“It is not a political case,” Vorn Chhunly said. “I am afraid that it is the individual who wanted to ex­tort money.”

Pich Socheata agreed, adding that she had nothing to hide.

“If they think I am not clean and want to remove me, do it,” she said.

 

 

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