The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday charged a man with the purchasing of child prostitution and two sisters with unlawful confinement and soliciting child prostitution over the sexual enslavement of their 13-year-old niece, despite their protests that the man and girl were engaged.
Sisters Chea Sros, 32, and Chea Tina, 27, were arrested in Phnom Penh on Monday and accused of shackling their young niece to the floor of their house in Russei Keo district to allow Chhin Chhay Ly, 36, to repeatedly have sex with her over the course of a year.
After two days of questioning, the municipal court Thursday decided to lay charges against all three involved, according to municipal anti-human trafficking police chief Keo Thea.
“The deputy prosecutor Ngin Pech has charged the sisters with illegal confinement and the solicitation of child prostitution,” he said, explaining that Mr. Chhay Ly, who paid the sisters $1,000 to have sex with the girl, was charged only with purchasing child prostitution.
Mr. Thea said the suspects—who are all Cham Muslims—were sent to the headquarters of the municipal anti-human trafficking police overnight and would be transferred to Prey Sar prison this morning.
In an interview outside the municipal court Thursday, Ms. Sros and Ms. Tina admitted to shackling their niece to the floor of their home, but said they had done so only out of concern for the girl’s security.
“I acknowledge that I threatened her and shackled her with metal chains, because I was concerned that she might escape from the house to go clubbing,” Ms. Tina said. “She worked as a garment worker and also had a lot of boyfriends.”
“I dare to take an oath at the Preah Ang Dangker temple,” Ms. Tina said. “If I forced her to have sex with him, please let the spirits strangle me to death, or when I am traveling on the road, please have the car overturn.”
Police say they were alerted to the 13-year-old girl’s situation after she escaped and alerted them directly. Mr. Sros and Ms. Tina said the girl was lying.
The sisters both said the $1,000 from Mr. Chhay Ly was not payment for the sexual services of their niece, but rather a dowry provided to marry the girl.
“No one forced her to have sex, but they were in love with each other,” Ms. Sros said.
Mr. Chhay Ly offered the same defense.
“She and I loved each other. No one forced her, because we were already engaged, according to Cham tradition, since last year,” Mr. Chhay Ly said.
“I did not know she was a minor, as she looks like an adult,” he added. “I love her so much.”