Municipal and provincial anti-human trafficking police arrested five people in two separate cases for allegedly attempting to send six young women to China as brides, officials said Monday.
On Sunday night, Phnom Penh anti-human trafficking police arrested one man and two women at Phnom Penh International Airport and charged them with human trafficking, anti-human trafficking police chief Keo Thea said.
“We arrested three suspects at the airport on Sunday night,” he said, adding that police working at the airport were suspicious of the behavior of Taing Saroeun, 46, Mak Heangrithy, 31, and Yi Lao, 60.
“Police had seen them distribute passports to the four victims before they were meant to depart to China,” Mr. Thea said, adding that the four suspects did not appear to be in a close relationship with the would-be brides, who were aged between 17 and 26.
Police were still questioning the four women last night, Mr. Thea said, adding the three suspects would be sent to court today.
In a separate case, Siem Reap provincial anti-human trafficking police arrested two women after noticing similar behavior at the Siem Reap Airport on Friday night involving two would-be brides aged 25 and 30.
“We cooperated with the airport police to arrest them when they got ready to send their victims to Macau,” provincial anti-human trafficking police chief Duong Thavry said Monday.
Ms. Thavry said the brokers had paid the families of the two women $400 each, and had promised that their daughters would marry rich Chinese men.
“The brokers tried to cheat them because they didn’t have any money on them, no passports and phones, so they were being trafficked,” Ms. Thavry said.
“We were concerned that they might have been sent to a brothel instead of being married,” she said, adding that marriage brokerage was illegal under Cambodian law.
The suspects were questioned at court Monday, and the victims were educated by a local NGO and sent back to their families on Saturday.
Although there are no nationwide figures, Hoy Pich Sovann, program officer with the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), said the two most recent cases were an example of an increase of illegal marriage brokerage to China.
“There is a lot more now, and it is very dangerous,” Mr. Pich Sovann said.
“Mostly [the women] are treated like slaves by their Chinese men, and some of the men only want a woman who serves them sexually,” Mr. Pich Sovann said, adding that the demand for wives was high in China due to its one child policy, in which male infants are favored.
Once Cambodian women arrive in China, usually in rural areas, they are stuck and often too scared to report abuse to police, as their brokers would tell them that they’d be arrested.
Although CLEC had assisted almost 20 victims, the six women who have been repatriated this year said that many more had been trafficked to China.
“This year we repatriated six victims from mainland China already. According to the victims, they have met many Cambodian women who were stuck in China but they don’t know how to get back,” Mr. Pich Sovann said.