Three Chinese nationals were jailed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday for attempting to smuggle four teenage Cambodian girls to China, while the sentences of two Cambodians involved in the trafficking operation were reduced to time served.
Hu De Hua, 35, and Xie Tao Sheng, 50, were given seven years’ jail time, the minimum sentence under Article 16 of the anti-human trafficking law, which states that traffickers face up to 15 years in prison, according to Presiding Judge Kor Vandy. Zhou Yanping, 41, was handed just 18 months with eight months suspended.
Judge Vandy said the court treated Ms. Zhou leniently because she was dying.
“Because she has breast cancer and she is waiting for the end of her life, we used articles 93 and 94 [of the Criminal Code] to allow for mitigating circumstances,” he said.
The three Chinese nationals and two Cambodians were arrested in December in possession of six fake passports containing forged Chinese visas, according to police, who surmised that the suspects planned to transport the teenagers by car to Bangkok, where they would then be put on a plane to China and sold to Chinese men.
The Cambodians, Liv Horn, 53, and her husband Vong Yita, 48, were found guilty of soliciting fraudulent documents and sentenced to a year in prison—all of it suspended aside from about two months already served—and ordered to pay two million riel, or about $500.
In recent years, China’s gender imbalance—about 117 men for every 100 women—has resulted in a steep rise in the number of brides found outside the country.
Rights group Adhoc has identified dozens of cases in which Cambodian women were tricked into relocating to China with the promise of wealthy husbands or high-paying jobs, only to find themselves sold into domestic and sexual slavery.
Muong Sokun, a lawyer for Mr. Hua, said he would appeal his client’s guilty verdict, claiming the teenagers had agreed to relocate and that Mr. Hua was merely a middleman. “If they go to China and they agree [to marry], they can. But if they don’t agree, they can come back,” he said.
Under Chinese law, once a foreign woman is married to a Chinese man, she must go through formal divorce procedures before she can leave the country.