Gov’t Faulted For Nine Girls’ Disappearance

The UN human rights envoy on Tues­day criticized the government for being complicit in a high-profile trafficking case involving Viet­­namese girls who disappeared from custody while waiting to be deported.

The nine girls were convicted in August on immigration charges after they were rescued by police from a Svay Pak brothel. They were detained at the Department of Immigration compound near Pochentong Airport waiting to be deported when they disappeared.

“It is obvious that these things could not have happened without probably a certain degree of participation by people who should exercise public authority,” envoy Peter Leu­precht said. “The authorities need to express clear and strong political will that this has to stop.”

He also recommended to the government not to punish victims of trafficking who “did not come here for their own pleasure,” but instead prosecute the perpetrators responsible for bringing the girls—illegally—to Cambodia.

Leuprecht, on his seventh visit to Cambodia as special representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, also took up the issue of legal and judicial reforms with Prime Minister Hun Sen, various government officials, judicial bodies and the donor community.

Although he praised several indicators that Cambodia’s judiciary is improving—such as an in­crease in judges salaries from $30 a month to $300 a month and a new school for training judges—he called the general prog­ress on legal reforms in Cam­bodia “slow.”

Also, Leuprecht addressed the future of the UN’s human rights office in Cambodia, saying that despite “financial problems” in the human rights sector of the UN’s main office in New York and downsizing of its office in Cambodia, UN human rights will continue to play “an important role” here.

“The Cambodia office had to do and has to do some downsizing—this is a painful process,” he said, adding that the local human rights office here will be involved in monitoring the upcoming 2003 elections, scheduled for July.


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