Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday found two sisters guilty of facilitating prostitution and sentenced both to five years in prison, but suspended all but two years of their sentences.
Dieb Sovanny, 26, and Dieb Sovanna, 24, were arrested in June during a police raid on the Blue Lagoon, their bar near Wat Phnom. A month-long sting operation by anti-human trafficking police uncovered an illegal backroom in which stripping as well as prostitution was reported to have taken place.
Following yesterday’s sentencing, defense attorney Dun Vibol denied that the bar had a backroom or that his clients acted in any unlawful manner.
“The court’s decision is not right, it was not just,” he said. Mr Vibol added that the women plan to appeal.
“My clients will file a complaint to the Appeal Court to reduce the punishment as one of them is nine months pregnant and it is difficult to live in prison.”
During the Feb 11 court hearing, Blue Lagoon owner Ms Sovanny, who is nine months pregnant, recanted a confession made in custody and insisted the bar hosted neither pole dancing nor sex.
“It was just an accusation by police,” she said. “I deny my answers at the police office because they forced me to thumbprint” their statement.
Her sister, reputed to be the bar’s manager, offered a similar statement accusing police of coercing a confession. She also denied being employed at the bar.
“I was not a staff working at that bar,” she said.
In reply to the claims of both sisters, the court clerk read a statement during the trial saying: “Daun Penh police answered to the investigating judge that they did not force or threaten them.”
While the trial featured none of the bar’s former staff, the court read statements given to the police at the time of the raid. Customers reportedly confessed to procuring prostitution and staff to stripping.
“When I pole danced and any customer liked my dancing, they gave me $5 to $10,” said Vin Sokha, 20, at the time.