No Longer Captive, Women Head for Home

By Kevin Doyle

the cambodia daily

Seven Romanian and Mol­dovan women rescued from the Best Western Cangi Hotel in Phnom Penh Sunday left  Poch­en­tong Airport Wednesday night to begin their journey home.

The seven, who were under UN and military police protection since release from the hotel, spent  Wednesday with Investi­gating Judge Ngeth Sarath giving statements regarding their captivity and the people who forced them to work in the city’s sex trade.

Earlier Wednesday Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Uk Sa­vuth said there was not enough evidence to charge the hotel’s owner, Canadian national Richard Chun, with a crime.

However, the court has issued an arrest warrant for a 30-year-old Ro­­manian woman, Norica Topir­ce­­a­nu, and an unnamed accomplice. Topirceanu is charged with hu­man trafficking and forcing the girls into prostitution, Uk Savuth said.

Although cleared of any wrongdoing, Chun—who hired the wom­en from Topirceanu and then kept their passports as collateral against them leaving his employment—can still be called at a later date for questioning, Uk Savuth said.

A human rights worker criticized the court decision Wednes­day, noting the court is trying to focus all blame on the Ro­manian woman and divert attention away from other more powerful people implicated in the case.

The rights worker also questioned why police did not move sooner to arrest Topir­ceanu, who was identified as be­ing involved in the case Sunday afternoon.

“She’s probably fled the country by now,” the rights worker said. “This is a clear signal to human traffickers that they can even get caught here and still get away.”

Marlene Alejos, monitoring staff at the UN Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday the in­vestigating judge agreed not only to interview most of the women in one day, but also allowed the testimonies to be videotaped.

The video tapes represent first-hand evidence that can be used in a future court case.

The UN was to brief Mini­ster of Women’s Affairs Mu So­chua Wednesday night, Alejos said.

The scandal led to the closure Tuesday of a nightclub in the Best Western Tai-Ming Plaza Hotel on Norodom Boulevard where the seven women worked, municipal officials said Wednesday.

According to Sok Leakhena, the municipality’s deputy chief of cabinet, the hotel did not have a license to operate the nightclub.

“We closed [the nightclub] temporarily because…it illegally had dancing girls from overseas,” Sok Leakhena said.

The license for the nightclub should have been issued by the Tourism Ministry, Sok Leakhena said. (Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

 

Seven Romanian and Moldovan women rescued from the prestigious Best Western Cangi Hotel in Phnom Penh Sunday left the city’s Pochentong Airport Wednesday night to begin their journey home.

The seven, who were under UN and Military Police protection since their release from the hotel, spent most of Wednesday with Investigating Judge Ngeth Sarath giving statements regarding their captivity and the people who forced them to work in the city’s sex trade.

Earlier Wednesday Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Uk Savuth said there was not enough evidence to charge the hotel’s owner, Canadian national Richard Chun, with a crime.

However, the court has issued an arrest warrant for Romanian woman Norica Topirceanu, 30, and an unnamed accomplice. Topirceanu is charged with human trafficking and forcing the girls into prostitution, Uk Savuth said.

Although cleared of any wrongdoing, Chun—who hired the women from Topirceanu and then kept their passports as collateral against them leaving his employment—can still be called at a later date for questioning, Uk Savuth said.

However, a human rights worker criticized the court decision Wednesday, noting that the court is trying to focus all blame on the Romanian woman and divert attention away from other more powerful people implicated in the case.

The rights worker also questioned why police officers did not move to arrest Topirceanu, who was identified as being involved in the case Sunday afternoon.

“She’s probably fled the country by now,” the rights worker said.

“This is a clear signal to human traffickers that they can even get caught here and still get away.”

Marlene Alejos, monitoring staff at the UN Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday that the Investigating Judge agreed not only to interview most of the women in one day, but also allowed the testimonies to be video recorded.

The video tapes represent first-hand evidence that can be used in a future court case.

The UN was slated to brief Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua Wednesday night, Alejos said.

The scandal led to the closure Tuesday of a nightclub in the Best Western Tai-Ming Plaza Hotel on Norodom Boulevard where the seven women worked, municipal officials said Wednesday.

According to Sok Leakhena, the municipality’s deputy chief of cabinet, the hotel did not have a license to operate the nightclub.

“We closed [the nightclub] temporarily because…it illegally had dancing girls from overseas,” Sok Leakhena said.

The license for the nightclub should have been issued by the Tourism Ministry, Sok Leakhena said.

(Additional Reporting Saing Soenthrith)

 

 

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