The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted a 58-year-old woman for human trafficking and sentenced her to 17 years in prison after she sold a deaf 17-year-old into prostitution in Thailand, where, the girl’s lawyer said, her infant baby was taken from her and sold by a karaoke club owner.
The convicted woman, Uth On, whose whereabouts are unknown, was tried in absentia. Judge Suos Sam Ath also ordered Uth On to pay the family of the victim more than $14,000 in compensation.
“The court sees that the victim is a deaf person, and in 2007 she was just 17 years old so the court must consider severe punishment on the defendant,” he said.
Rath Chanthol, the teenager’s lawyer, said her client met the defendant in Hun Sen Park in Phnom Penh in 2007 where Uth On offered to find her work as a cook in Thailand.
“Ms On persuaded my client to work in Thailand and sent her to a karaoke club, and the karaoke club owner forced her to have sex with customers. The defendant really sold the victim to Thailand,” Mr Chanthol said.
The victim eventually became pregnant, but when her baby was five months old, the karaoke club owner sold it, Mr Chanthol said.
In 2009 a Cambodian migrant worker brought the teenager back to Cambodia, Mr Chanthol said.
Under the Anti-Human Trafficking law the defendant could have been sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison.
Khiev Sepphan, the lawyer for Uth On, said he did not know the whereabouts of his client. The case should be reinvestigated, he said, because the defendant was not present to defend herself in court.
“So we don’t know if she really sold the victim or not,” he said.