Lawyer Blasts Light Sentences for Prostitution Ringleaders

Two people who forced at least eight underage girls into prostitution will serve a combined 16 months in jail after the Kandal Provincial Court on Monday suspended part of their two-year sentences, the victims’ lawyer said Wednesday.

Provincial and anti-human trafficking police arrested Sin Sidet, 58, his wife Touch Vanny, 54, and Hang Mao, 31, in November after a four-month investigation that culminated with raids on a guesthouse and private home in Takhmao City.

Sek Saroeun, a lawyer for eight minors who were forced into prostitution, said Wednesday that Mr. Sidet, the guesthouse owner, was later released because police concluded he was not involved in the illegal business. But Ms. Vanny was convicted on Monday of making premises available for prostitution while her accomplice, Mr. Mao, was convicted of procuring prostitution.

“Touch Vanny was sentenced to two years in prison but she will serve only four months and [Mr.] Mao was sentenced to two years in prison too but he will serve only one year,” because the judge suspended the remainder of their sentences, Mr. Saroeun said.

The lawyer said the sentences were far too lenient.

“Mr. Mao confessed and we had evidence that the husband and wife were involved in the case,” he said, adding that the pair should have faced harsher charges due to the fact that the victims were minors.

Contacted Wednesday, Hok Vanthina, the provincial court judge who presided over the case, declined to comment.

Christa Sharpe, the field office director for child protection NGO International Justice Mission, which was involved in the case, said the verdicts undermined the work of Kandal police, who rescued the victims and arrested those responsible.

“We were absolutely shocked by the court’s decision,” Ms. Sharpe said. “The anti-human trafficking police [involved in the case] are quite upset by the result.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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