The 17 Vietnamese girls and women rescued from two Svay Pak brothels Friday will not be jailed or face illegal immigration charges, but they will be deported, said Touch Ngim, deputy director of the anti-trafficking unit of the Ministry of Interior.
Despite being put under the care of a local NGO, one of the girls was reportedly returned to Svay Pak after being “signed out” for questioning by an Interior Ministry Anti Sex Crimes Unit officer, said Chanthol Oung, Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center director.
“[Officer] Ten Borath signed one of the girls out in order to interview her at the Ministry of Interior,” she said.
She said that a CWCC volunteer later called the center and said the girl was back in a Svay Pak brothel, but could not confirm her exact whereabouts.
Prun Vuth, bureau chief of the anti-sex crimes unit, confirmed Monday that he allowed one 21- year-old girl to return to her family Saturday after her relatives requested that she be allowed to come home.
“The girl’s parents came to the Ministry of Interior and asked for the girls back,” Prun Vuth said. “After questioning them, we realized that they really were her parents so we decided to let her go. I ordered Ten Borath to take her from the center. She was cheated into being a sex worker and her family guaranteed not to return her to the brothel.”
Prun Vuth denied there was any sort of payoff involved, but said he did not know where she is now and that it is possible the girl might be back in Svay Pak.
Brigadier General Un Sokunthea, director of the ministry’s anti-sex trafficking unit, said she had no information regarding the girl. She said she believed the 17 girls were being kept at the CWCC, while two suspected brothel owners are being detained in Prey Sar prison.
Although the suspected owners of one of the brothels managed to escape during Friday’s two raids, two women—aged 27 and 40—who were taken into custody from a second brothel have been charged with illegally confining the women, Touch Ngim said.
“None of the girls have official documents or passports and were cheated when they came to get good jobs” in Phnom Penh, Touch Ngim said. But, “I could not allow the court to [charge the girls] because they are victims of trafficking. I will request that the prosecutor not charge them with illegal entry.”
Human rights groups strongly criticized Cambodian officials when they arrested 14 young Vietnamese girls on illegal immigration charges in June after they were rescued in a series of Svay Pak brothel raids in May. Ten of those girls are currently serving two-or three-month sentences, after which they will be sent to Vietnam.