Japanese Authorities Arrest Trio Suspected of Sex Trafficking

Cambodian authorities are tracking down a network of traffickers after three suspects were arrested in Japan over the exploitation of seven Cambodian women lured to Japan with the promise of waitressing jobs and instead forced into sex work.

Officials from the Cambodian Embassy in Japan alerted Japanese authorities last month after one of the women contacted them via Facebook.

cam photo japan folo 1 WEB
A photograph posted on Japanese business listings site dokonet.jp for GOLD, a bar in Gumna prefecture’s Numata district.

So Vandy, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said officials were pursuing traffickers in Cambodia who had recruited the women and got them into Japan.

“They colluded with each other to traffic these people,” he said.

According to Japanese media reports, police in Gunma prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, arrested three suspects with alleged ties to two hospitality venues in the Ikaho Hot Springs area of Shibukawa and nearby Numata.

Hisao Watanabe, 44, the manager of a brothel in Shibukawa, his employee Tomoyuki Goto, 32, and a Thai woman, 44, who manages Gold bar in Numata, are accused of hiring the women, aged 20 to 36, without proper visas.

The suspects are also being investigated for coercing the women into sex work.

According to TBS News, one of the Cambodian victims told police: “I was recruited by a Japanese man who told me I could earn $3,000 a month in a waitressing job.”

Authorities are seeking the man, who allegedly recruited the women in Cambodia, as an accomplice to the trafficking, TBS reported.

The Shibukawa parlor is described by the Sankei newspaper as being located in the center of the hot springs’ quaint commercial district. A small shop vendor nearby told the newspaper: “They seem to have been accommodating tour groups.”

The Numata bar, meanwhile, is “located close to the district office” and was established about two years ago, Sankei reported.

Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Goto have reportedly admitted to violating immigration laws, while the Thai woman has denied the allegations.

Gunma prefectural police declined to comment on Sunday, and calls to numbers listed online for the two venues went unanswered.

One of seven women was returned to Cambodia at the beginning of this month for treatment for an unspecified illness, while the other six have remained behind in the care of embassy officials while they assist Japanese authorities in their investigations, Mr. Vandy said.

“The Japanese court needs them as plaintiffs. When the Japanese court has solved this case, they will send the women back to Cambodia,” he said.

Mr. Vandy, who previously asked reporters not to publish information about the case to avoid jeopardizing ongoing investigations, said the women had been angered by international media coverage—which had withheld their names—and were concerned about the impact it would have on their reputations.

“They did not want the newspapers to publish articles about them because it impacts their honor and reputation,” he said. “They want to change [jobs] when they return to live in Cambodia.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Dickison)

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