Police Arrest 21 Sex Workers During Raid

Fourteen sex workers will appear in Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court for an immigration hearing today, after foreigner police raided a Daun Penh district guest house they say was operating as a brothel, court Deputy Director Nget Sarath said Sun­day.

A total of 21 sex workers were taken into custody when police raided the Pen Vong guest house Friday, Municipal Foreigner Police Chief Pol Pithey said. He said the guest house owner “es­caped.” Police said the guest house has been closed.

Police determined that seven of the 21 are younger than 17. They were sent to the NGO Cam­bodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights. The others remain in police custody.

Pol Pithey said police are determining if any of the women and girls are legal residents of Cam­bo­dia. Some of them, he said, are Vietnamese nationals violating Cambodia’s immigration laws.

“We do not know if they are legal or illegal,” Pol Pithey said. “It is up to the courts.”

Last month Ministry of Interior police, acting on a court order, ar­rested on immigration charges 14 underage girls who had been rescued in Svay Pak brothel raids. NGOs criticized the act, which they said served to punish the victims of sex trafficking.

Friday’s raid came after police got a tip from a sex worker’s parents accusing the guest house owner of forcing their daughter to live and work as a prostitute.

Yim Po, executive director of the children’s rights center, said of the seven girls in his custody, “Most of them were sold to the brothel by their parents.”

The underage girls are being trained in sewing and hairdressing as an alternative to sex work.

Yim Po said he did not know the nationalities of the girls in his custody, but the apparently ethnic Vietnamese girls speak the Khmer language and may have been born in Cambodia.


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