Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called for the Supreme Council of Magistracy to explain the quiet release of two men convicted in the Chai Hour II Hotel human trafficking case.
News of the release surfaced this month when the men were again charged with human trafficking-related offenses at the same hotel.
“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced them to prison,” Hun Sen told the Council of Ministers.
“We don’t understand why the Court of Appeal claimed there is insufficient evidence in this case and released them,” he said.
The municipal court Feb 4 charged three men with pimping, debauchery and human trafficking following a police raid on Tuol Kok district’s Leang Hour Hotel.
Two of the suspects, Te Pao Ly, 36, and Som Leang, 58, had already been convicted in February 2006 of collusion in human trafficking at the Chai Hour II, which the Interior Ministry said this month had merely been renamed the Leang Hour.
The pair had been released by the Court of Appeal for lack of evidence, the Interior Ministry revealed this month, though the date of the decision remains unclear.
Hun Sen said he has asked Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to lodge a complaint with the Supreme Council of Magistracy seeking an explanation of the Appeals Court’s decision.
Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached Thursday though Justice Ministry Secretary of State Long Phol said the release remained a mystery to him.
“They heard [the case] with no one’s attention. Even Samdech Hun Sen said he learned about it from abroad,” he said.
Appeals Court Prosecutor Pann Kim Lean said he was unaware both of the premier’s remarks and of the release.
More than 80 women and girls removed from the Chai Hour II in a December 2004 raid were subsequently removed the following day from a shelter run by the anti-trafficking NGO Afesip.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison.)