Police Arrest 17 Bangladeshis Wanted for Human Trafficking

A yearlong investigation by immigration police culminated in the arrest on Saturday of 17 Bangladeshi men hiding in Phnom Penh and Poipet City to avoid charges of human trafficking in their home country, police said Sunday.

Three of the fugitives, arrested   at a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district at about 3 p.m., gave up the location of 14 of their countrymen also allegedly involved in the trafficking ring, according to Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.

“We have been investigating this case for the past year, since we received information that they had been involved in trafficking women from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to…India and Pakistan,” Major General Heisela said.

He declined to say whether the arrests were made at the request of Bangladeshi authorities or comment further on the investigation that led to the arrests.

Sim Sam Ath, immigration police chief at the Poipet International Checkpoint, said some 30 immigration police officers carried out the raid in Poipet City at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, on the instructions of General Sok Phal, head of the immigration department.

“After I received the order from General Sok Phal…we began checking all of the guesthouses in Poipet to find the suspects,” Mr. Sam Ath said.

The men were finally discovered in a room at the 999 Guesthouse in Poipet City, he said.

Mr. Sam Ath said the men were in their 20s and 30s and possessed valid passports with expired visas.

Lieutenant General Khun Sambo, deputy head of the immigration department, said the fate of the men, who are being held at the department’s headquarters in Phnom Penh, was still up in the air.

“We are checking to see whether or not there is an extradition treaty between the two countries. But they were living in our country illegally, so we have the right to send them back to their country regardless,” Lt. Gen. Sambo said.

“We had difficulty questioning them today because they cannot speak English, so we need translators,” he added.

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