Three men and three women were arrested in Phnom Penh on Thursday on suspicion of trafficking Cambodian women to China to be sold as brides, police said.
Keo Thea, chief of the municipal police’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said his officials first arrested a woman believed to be the ringleader while she was en route to Vietnam.
“Three victims and the ringleader were found while they were traveling on a bus…to Vietnam and from there would be sent to China,” he said.
Mr. Thea said that overland travel through Vietnam has become a popular way to smuggle would-be brides to China after a spate of trafficking cases led officials to carefully scrutinize the visa applications of young Cambodian women traveling alone to China by airplane.
Mr. Thea said police had been monitoring the woman who was arrested Thursday and were waiting to catch her in the act. “We have been investigating for a long time and when the woman began the activities for real, we arrested her,” he said.
Mr. Thea said police then descended on the woman’s home in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Salang commune, from where they believe she was organizing a trafficking ring. They found two more alleged victims in the house and arrested five other suspects, he said.
Deputy commune police chief Oeng My confirmed the raid had occurred, but said he had not previously received any indication that the residence was being used as a hub for human trafficking.
“We don’t know if they are related to human trafficking because they look like an ordinary family,” Mr. My said. “There was nothing unusual that would make us suspicious.”
According to Mr. Thea, the suspects admitted under questioning to previously selling women as brides to China.
“If we did not crack down on them in time, there could have been more women sent [to China],” Mr. Thea said, adding that police began gathering evidence in the case a month ago after police received complaints from the alleged victims’ relatives.