Verdict in Trafficking Case Delayed—Again

The verdict on a long-delayed Phnom Penh Municipal Court un­derage sex trafficking case has been put off until next week because the court has yet to hear testimony from the four suspects, court officials said.

The suspects—Sok Veasna, 20, Kin Savoeun, 30, Sok Cham­roeun, 21, and Lok Seakpao, 39—have been held at Prey Sar prison since January and have signed con­fessions saying they helped lure Rath Chrip, 17, into working at a brothel against her will.

The defendants must have the opportunity to defend themselves, court clerk Phong Van said Tuesday.

Court officials said the Prey Sar warden claimed he could not transport the defendants.

Rath Chrip, from Svay Rieng pro­vince, said she came to Phnom Penh in May 2001 to live with her aunt and work as a gasoline vendor in the Tonle Bassac squatter village, which burned down that same month.

One of her customers was Sok Veasna, who offered to help her find a job with his neighbor after the fire left her unemployed. She agreed to go to Sok Veasna’s home, where Sok Veasna alle­gedly raped her.

Sok Veasna then allegedly drove Rath Chrip to Siha­noukville, telling her they were going to ask his parents for money to get married. When they arrived, he sold her to a brothel, she said.

During her four months as a prostitute, Rath Chrip was forced to have sex five or six times daily with men who sometimes re­fused to wear condoms, she said.

In January, police raided the brothel and turned Rath Chrip over to the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center in Phnom Penh.

Ith Phum, Rath Chrip’s lawyer, said he was shocked by Tues­day’s delay. He described the court’s decision as outrageous, say­ing, “When I heard this, I burst into laughter.”

Chanthal Oung, the executive director of CWCC, said Rath Chrip has received threats from police, warning her to drop the case.

“I fear arrest or attempts on my life by other criminals involved in trafficking,” Rath Chrip said.

 

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