The foreign owner of a Phnom Penh pizzeria and a wine seller at the restaurant appeared in court Sunday after anti-human trafficking police took both women into custody on Friday in order to investigate accusations that the wine seller was illegally detained by her boss, police and the building’s owner said.
San Vuth, a bureau chief at the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said the owner of Ga Do Italian Pizza & Wine Shop on Street 136 in Daun Penh district and one of her employees, both foreign women, were detained during a raid of the restaurant on Friday and were being held at the ministry.
“The victim and the [restaurant] owner did not reveal their names,” he said, adding that he also did not know the nationality of either woman.
Men Rotha, a deputy bureau chief at the department, said the pair appeared at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Sunday to be questioned by a prosecutor, but were sent back to the ministry after their lawyer failed to show up.
Court officials could not be reached. Put Keo Boreak, a lawyer for the owner of the pizzeria, said he was in a meeting and was unable to discuss the case.
According to Song Huot, the owner of the building that houses the pizzeria, anti-human trafficking police raided the restaurant on Friday after the parents of a wine seller there—one of three employees, all foreigners—notified the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that she was being held against her will.
“But in fact, the owner of the wine shop was not illegally detaining the victim at all,” he said. “They were freely going out together and working together at the wine shop.”
Mr. Huot said that when police showed up on Friday, they told him that the wine seller’s parents wanted their daughter to return to her home country, but that she did not want to, fearing that her stepfather, an alcoholic, would beat her. He said police told him that the woman’s parents then contacted the IOM, which in turn alerted Cambodian police.
Joe Lowry, a regional spokesman for the IOM, said he knew nothing about the case and declined to comment.