Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday acquitted a man accused of trafficking a teen-aged Vietnamese girl to Macau, Judge Hing Therith said Sunday.
Thang Kim Min, 35, was freed and then deported to Vietnam, the judge said.
The judge claimed there were 42 pieces of evidence that proved the girl could not have been trafficked. He cited witnesses’ testimony that the girl applied for and paid for her own passport, saved and brought back $1,000 from Macau, and underwent $2,000 worth of plastic surgery, funded by a boyfriend.
The judge also cited a physical examination, which showed that the girl had no drugs in her system, as evidence she could not have been a victim of trafficking.
Human rights workers, who have followed the case closely, said the court’s reasoning was flimsy and biased. “If he has been acquitted, there is no justice, there is no solution,” said Pierre Legros, regional director of Afesip, the women’s NGO that protected the teen-ager.
He noted that there was plenty of evidence pointing to Thang Kim Min, including a confession that he later retracted and a positive identification by the victim.
The girl’s life is now in danger, Legros said. Thang Kim Min has threatened to kill the girl in the past and is believed to have killed others, he said.
Legros said Thang Kim Min cannot be deported as he has Cambodian as well as Vietnamese citizenship.
The girl, 17, had testified that Thang Kim Min first won her confidence, then forced her into Macau’s flourishing sex trade, where she was denied food if she did not perform sexual acts for customers.
She said she had been provided a Cambodian passport and other documents by Thang Kim Min.