Municipal anti-trafficking police raided a Phnom Penh massage parlor Saturday night, removing 88 women and arresting four men, officials said.
Phnom Penh municipal police Commissioner Heng Pov said his officers had spent three months collecting evidence to prove the World One massage parlor in Prampi Makara district was a center for sex.
“We have real evidence, such as the receipts showing sex fees were paid to the cashier of World One,” Heng Pov said, adding many of the women also admitted accepting money for sex.
The raid marks the largest vice crackdown since the controversial raid on the Chai Hour II Hotel in December.
Heng Pov, however, said the raid on World One was different from the raid at the Chai Hour II Hotel.
“Those women [at the Chai Hour II] denied having sex with the guests,” Heng Pov said. “But the World One women confessed.”
During the earlier operation more than 90 women were removed from the hotel but were later sprung from a women’s shelter run by the NGO Afesip after men forced open the shelter’s gate. Several trafficking suspects arrested in the Chai Hour II were later released without charge.
Heng Pov said none of the women at World One were underage and no NGOs were involved in the operation. The four men arrested will appear in court today and will be charged with pimping and debauchery.
Anti-trafficking unit Chief Meng Say said the women were held for questioning at the municipal police headquarters and will be sent to the municipality’s department of social affairs today for “re-education.”
Two of the women, spoken to at the anti-trafficking unit’s headquarters on Sunday morning, said they would rather not have been “rescued” by police. They alleged that they had willingly engaged in the sex trade and said that officers had stolen their belongings during the raid.
“Now I have nothing,” said Keang Srey Pov, 21. “They came to rescue us but their actions were like robbers.”
Vorn Srey Leak, 25, said she had worked at the massage parlor for two months earning $30 per month in salary. In order to earn extra money, girls sold sex to customers, she said, adding that management did not officially sanction the practice.
Meng Say said he ordered all the women’s cell phones confiscated because they were calling friends and relatives.
Officials at NGOs Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center and Action Pour Les Enfants said on Sunday that they were worried the raid was merely an attempt to appease the US government, which has threatened to level sanctions against Cambodia for its handling of the Chai Hour II case.