In Court, Kidney Trader Denies Running Transplant Enterprise

A woman accused of organ trafficking was tried at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for allegedly persuading her two cousins and a neighbor to sell their kidneys in Thailand last year.

Anti-human trafficking police arrested Nhem Sinuon, 29, in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district in July after a 10-day investigation following complaints from two of the alleged victims.

Police said at the time of the arrest that Ms. Sinuon, who also goes by the name Azisah, had been operating a transplant-brokering ring for nearly a year, although they did not provide details on how many kidney sales she had brokered. She was charged with human trafficking and producing fake documents for the two victims so they could pretend to be related to the recipients of their kidneys—a requirement under Thai law.

Ms. Sinuon’s stepfather, Nhem Phalla, 42, was arrested shortly after Ms. Sinuon and is accused of helping her acquire fake identities for the kidney donors, but he was released on bail and failed to appear in court Monday. A third man, Pheng Sabay, 22, Ms. Sinuon’s brother-in-law, is also accused of colluding with Ms. Sinuon, but has been at large since the scheme was uncovered in July.

In court Monday, Ms. Sinuon denied running a transplant ring. She said she had only set up a meeting between the patients looking for a kidney and the prospective organ donors, who she said were desperate for money.

“I did not contact them, but they came to contact me directly because they lacked money to help their families,” she said of the donors.

Mot Satirin, 24, one of Ms. Sinuon’s cousins, said he was convinced to sell his kidney after Ms. Sinuon promised him $5,000.

“But actually the price for the kidney was $12,000…and I only received $6,000,” he said.

The other alleged victims who sold their kidneys are Roeun Chamroeun, 18, and Mot Arifin, 26.

Presiding Judge Keo Mony said during the trial that the patients looking for kidney donors would not have asked Ms. Sinuon for help unless she had prior knowledge of how to sell their organs.

“The victims did not know the persons who needed the kidneys,” Mr. Mony said. “But [the patients] contacted you, then you contacted the victims.”

A verdict in the case is expected on March 27.

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