Some 20 Interior Ministry police officials searched Phnom Penh’s Chai Hour I Hotel on Tuesday, after a woman complained to police that her 16-year-old niece was being held captive on the establishment’s fifth floor, officials said Wednesday.
The officers were unable to locate the teenager, identified as Socheata, who disappeared on her way to school on April 10 and has not been seen since, said Mok Chito, deputy chief of the ministry’s penal police department.
“Although we could not find her at that hotel, we continue to do our best to look for her,” he said, though he declined to say whether police still thought she was there.
A staff member at the hotel who declined to give his name said there were no females detained there, adding that police searched the hotel again on Wednesday morning, this time without showing a warrant.
“I allowed them to check all the floors and they could not find the girl. I am really disappointed with the police because around seven or eight police raided my hotel without a warrant,” he said. “I am innocent so I am not scared,” he added, stating that he may sue the police if a similar incident happens again.
Cheang Sopheap, the victim’s aunt, said she filed a complaint with the police after she received a phone call on Monday from a person claiming to be her niece.
“I was really shocked and terrified because it was hard for her to speak out. She was crying a lot and then I heard the voice of men who tried to hit her and asked her who she was calling,” Cheang Sopheap said, adding that the phone then went dead.
She said the person called back shortly afterward and said she was held at the Chai Hour I, which is located in Daun Penh district’s Phsar Thmei III commune.
Cheang Sopheap said that her family had not reported the teenager’s April 10 disappearance to the police, as they had been hoping to find her themselves.
Municipal Court Prosecutor Nget Sarath said he issued a warrant for police to search the hotel.
“We cannot say if the victim has been kidnapped or smuggled into the sex trade,” he said. “At the first stage, we must find the place where the victim is being held.”
It was unclear Wednesday whether the Chai Hour I is linked to the scandal-wracked Chai Hour II, from which 83 women and girls were removed in an anti-trafficking raid in December 2004 and taken to a shelter run by the NGO Afesip. The shelter was raided by a group of men the next day and the females were removed, never to return.