Three Chinese men and three Cambodians were arrested in Phnom Penh on Wednesday on suspicion of running a trafficking ring in which Cambodian women are married off to Chinese men, police said.
Keo Thea, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking police, said his unit had been watching the Cambodian trio for more than a month and pounced at about 5 a.m. as one of them was driving a Cambodian woman to Phnom Penh International Airport to catch an 8 a.m. flight to Beijing.
Later, he said, police raided a guesthouse in Prampi Makara district’s Boeng Prolit commune and found two Cambodian accomplices and two more women preparing to board the same flight. Those suspects led them to another guesthouse nearby, where the Chinese nationals were arrested, he said.
“Now they are being held at the anti-human trafficking police station and will be sent to court on Friday,” Mr. Thea said, noting that the six could face up to 15 years in prison on charges of selling a person for cross-border transfer.
Mr. Thea said that one of the Chinese men, Cau Wuhua, 42, was the leader of the bride-trafficking ring and was based in Phnom Penh, while his compatriots—Yu Yinghong, 29, and Li Honglin, 24—accompanied their victims to China, where the women are sold for upward of $10,000.
He said the first Cambodian arrested, Ki Chheang Ang, 57, was responsible for organizing paperwork in Phnom Penh along with his wife, Srey Hour, 60, while Im Hab, 60, sourced the women from Kirivong district in Takeo province.
Women who have returned from China over the past two years have reported that their traffickers’ promises of wealthy, loving husbands abruptly gave way to a reality of rape and servitude.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said Wednesday that officials explained the risks to five Cambodian women who came to the ministry on Tuesday with their Chinese fiances for permission to marry overseas, but that the women ignored their warnings.
“All we can do is inform them,” he said. “The decision is theirs, it is their constitutional right.”
(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)