VN Brothel Girls Will Be Treated as Victims

The 37 girls and women from Vietnam rescued from the Svay Pak brothel district on Saturday will be treated as victims of trafficking and probably will not be charged with any crime or immediately deported to Vietnam, officials said Monday.

The trafficking victims, some as young as 5 and 6, were taken from the Svay Pak brothel district during a Ministry of Interior crackdown on the notorious prostitution area. The Interior Mini­stry officials, working on information from a US-based NGO, also arrested at least 12 suspected traffickers during the six-hour raid.

“We will make sure that the [girls and women] rescued will be treated as victims,” said Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua on Monday. “We are making sure that the government, working with NGOs, offer them care and shelter—this will be much better than last time.”

Mu Sochua was referring to previous brothel raids in which authorities arrested and charged trafficking victims from Vietnam with illegal immigration.

One NGO worker said that the 37 rescued girls and teenagers are currently safe and well cared for.

“The government has not talked about deportations or arrests and the kids are still in the care of social workers in houses that are guarded by the police,” the NGO official said.

Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday delayed charging the suspected human traffickers with a crime until today. Some officials put the number of suspects at 12, while others stated it was 13.

Although the suspects were taken to the court by the Ministry of Interior late in the day, court prosecutor Sok Roeun declined to charge the suspects and in­stead ordered them returned to the ministry detention facility.

One suspect, 36-year-old Koeun Doung Chok from Viet­nam, said at the Courthouse that he was innocent. “I was standing around watching the raid on Saturday,” he said. “I saw the police [take into custody] the prostitutes, then they arrested me.”

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