A recruiter for an alleged maid-trafficking ring told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday that she did not knowingly exploit a group of Cambodian women that her agency sent to Malaysia with the promise of well-paying domestic work.
Tren Sokchanny, 27, was arrested in Phnom Penh in May and charged with illegal recruitment for exploitation over her role in sending eight Cambodian women to Malaysia—two of whom have allegedly disappeared.
During Ms. Sokchanny’s trial on Tuesday, four of the women told the court that they traveled from various provinces to Phnom Penh after calling a number they heard in a radio advertisement for a maid-recruitment company early last year. They said Ms. Sokchanny met them in the city and facilitated their journey to Malaysia.
Originally from Siem Reap province, Nhov Sam, 26, said she and the other seven women departed Phnom Penh in April, traveling to Thailand via Poipet City and on to the Malaysian border by bus, accompanied by two Malaysian men from the same agency that Ms. Sokchanny worked for.
After crossing into Malaysia, Ms. Sam said, she opened her passport to find only a one-month visa inside. When she attempted to alert Malaysian police to her suddenly precarious situation, the Malaysian chaperones threatened to have her parents arrested over $200 in debts she had incurred from the agency, she said.
“I showed the passport to police and told them I came here to work and asked why they only gave me a one-month visa. When the police confirmed that I wanted to work there, they took all the passports,” she said, adding that the Malaysian men were arrested on the spot and prosecuted in their home country, while she and five of the other women were sent back to Cambodia.
She did not explain what happened to the other two women but said they were still missing.
Ms. Sokchanny told the court she had recruited the women—who were promised wages of $250 per month in Malaysia—on the orders of her boss, a man named Heng Samnang, and did not know they were going to be duped.
“I just helped them with passports, found them places to stay and provided them with food,” she said, adding that Mr. Samnang paid her $300 per month and a $50 commision for each maid she recruited.
In 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen placed a moratorium on sending Cambodian women to Malaysia to work as maids. The two governments are currently finalizing details of an agreement that would lift the ban.