Manager, Two Women Charged at Chai Hour II

Two women arrested at the scan­dal-wracked Chai Hour II Ho­­tel have been charged with hu­man trafficking and the hotel’s man­ager with colluding in hu­man trafficking, an Interior Minis­try official said Thursday.

With just three weeks before an Oct 1 deadline when US sanctions could be imposed on Cambodia be­cause of its poor anti-trafficking re­cord, activities at the Chai Hour II have also been suspended.

Sam Srey and Khun Navy, both 21, were charged with hu­man trafficking by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday, while Sam Leng, 56, the hotel’s manager, was charged with collusion in trafficking, said Chhay Sinarith, director of the Interior Ministry’s Information Depart­ment.

Suspects Sam Srey and Khun Navy allegedly brought a 16-year-old girl to sell at the hotel for sex, Chhay Sinarith said.

Ouk Savouth, chief prosecutor at the court, confirmed the charges.

Three females, aged 16, 17 and 18, were removed from the hotel during Wednesday’s raid and were to be sent to a women’s shel­­ter run by the NGO Afesip, Chhay Sinarith said.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuk­tema told the hotel’s director that the hotel was to close tem­porarily while authorities in­vestigate.

A copy of the letter was taped to the glass doors of the Tuol Kok district hotel on Thursday even­ing. Inside the hotel lobby, lights and a television were on and two women stood behind the reception desk where two men could also be seen.

“This is temporary but we don’t know exactly” when the hotel will reopen, security guard Nov Van­nak said.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia broadcast Thursday, Nation­al Police Commissioner Hok Lun­dy said police had found evidence that women and children were traf­ficked at the hotel.

“The owner of the hotel right now is at large,” Hok Lundy said. “We are trying to find him for ar­rest,” he said, according to the RFA broadcast.

The Chai Hour II hotel was sub­ject to an anti-trafficking raid on Dec 7, when 83 women and girls were removed and taken to an Afesip shelter.

The next day, Dec 8, the shelter was attacked and the females taken away.

In the wake of the scandal, the US downgraded Cambodia to the bottom tier on its anti-trafficking global watchdog list in June.

Subsequent US sanctions could be imposed by Oct 1, but the US has asked the government to take several actions to avoid this, including the arrest of 10 human traffickers and the conviction of three.

The US also requested a reinvestigation into the hotel.

Somaly Mam, Afesip president, said that she was set to receive three females taken from the  hotel.

This week’s events have shown that when a donor country threatens sanctions, the government responds positively, said Mu So­ch­ua, former minister of women’s affairs.

“I believe the use of sanctions does work on issues that require a strong monitoring from the do­nor community,” Mu Sochua, now an opposition party member, added. “However, sanctions should not be used lightly,” she said.

One official with an anti-trafficking organization said similar in­ves­tigations are taking place elsewhere in the city.

Police “are aggressively investigating all the brothels on Street 271,” he said on condition that nei­ther he nor his organization be named, adding that underage pros­­titutes are working there.

One international police expert close to the Ministry of Interior lauded Wednesday’s raid, which was conducted by Information De­partment police rather than the be­leaguered anti-trafficking department.

“They did a very good job, much better than in December,” he said on condition of anonymity.

“I’m surprised to see that when [police] want to work well, to show efficiency, to clear a case, they are able to do it without any external assistance.”


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