Municipal Police officials are investigating two government employees and a former investigator with the Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights for their possible roles in the return of seven teen-age girls to a Svay Pak brothel, according to staff at the children’s rights center.
The May scandal—which caused one foreign organization to freeze funding for the local children’s rights center—centered on seven prostitutes under the age of 18 who were rescued from the sex trade, taken to a safe house, and then allegedly sold back into the business.
The official request for police to investigate was made after a July 29 meeting with donors of the center, Ministry of Social Affairs officials and city police.
According to Yim Po, executive director of the children’s center, the seven rescued prostitutes were handed over to two men who identified themselves as staff at the Municipal Department of Social Affairs. The released girls left the center in a Ministry of Health vehicle, but later in the day were seen arriving in the vehicle at the Svay Pak brothel from which they had been rescued, according to the complaint sent to the police by Yim Po.
Rath Oun, director of the city’s department of social affairs, would not confirm if members of staff at his department were under investigation.
One children’s rights activist said those found guilty of returning the seven girls to the brothel should be charged under Cambodia’s law on child trafficking, which allows for sentencing of between 10 years and 15 years in prison.
On Tuesday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a 36-year-old woman to 15 years in prison for selling her underage daughter into the sex trade on three occasion.
The court also sentenced three Svay Pak brothel owners to jail terms of 10 years and 15 years for procuring the woman’s daughter.
However, the police have not yet apprehended the brothel owners.