A day after opposition leader Sam Rainsy publicly took up their cause, a young Cham Muslim woman and girl were repatriated Tuesday after being trafficked into the Malaysian sex trade and were greeted by Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong.
The victims, aged 15 and 23, returned at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning and were met in Phnom Penh by their mothers and by Mr. Rainsy, who had campaigned on their behalf on Monday after hearing that authorities had ignored their families’ pleas for help.
After the meeting with Mr. Namhong at the Foreign Affairs Ministry at about 9 a.m., ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told reporters that the repatriation was an example of the “strengthening the culture of dialogue” between the government and opposition.
“[Mr. Namhong] stressed that he regularly advises Cambodian Embassies and General Consulates, especially in areas where Cambodians live and where Cambodians are most vulnerable and at risk, to pay great attention to help, rescue and take care of them,” he said.
The repatriation Tuesday morning, however, would not have happened if it were not for Mr. Rainsy, according to the mother of the 15-year-old girl.
“My daughter was returned safely with the help of [Mr. Rainsy], who paid for the airfares for their return,” she said, adding that a Cambodian woman in Malaysia had helped locate her daughter.
Speaking by telephone, the 15-year-old said she had been sold to a Chinese family and used as a sex slave before being sold on to two Chinese men for the same purpose.
“When I was told by a woman in Malaysia that I could come back to Cambodia, I thought ‘I am going to be reborn,’” she said.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Rainsy said that he and Mr. Namhong agreed during a telephone conversation earlier in the day that there is a pressing need to combat the organized crime networks responsible for the type of suffering the pair had to endure.
“I got a call from His Excellency Hor Namhong to tell me that the government is giving this case its utmost attention and he has ordered Interior Minister Sar Kheng to arrest the ringleaders,” the opposition leader said.
Mr. Rainsy said Prime Minister Hun Sen had also sent a text message pledging his support.
“After that, I also received a SMS from Samdech Hun Sen, telling me that he had ordered Interior Minister Sar Kheng to intervene in the cases,” he said.
He added: “This proves that the top leaders of the government do not ignore the cases and they are paying high attention to help victims.”