Women Saved From Sex Work Before Boarding Plane for Malaysia

Phnom Penh anti-human trafficking police prevented an accused sex trafficker from boarding a plane on Saturday along with five women—including a teenager—she was planning to sell into the sex trade in Malaysia, officials said Sunday.

Keo Thea, municipal anti-human trafficking police chief, said police received a complaint from the parents of the 16-year-old girl on Thursday and began investigating.

“After we got the complaint from the family of the victim, municipal deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth ordered me to lead an investigation into that case,” Mr. Thea said. “We have arrested one ringleader and rescued one teenager and four other women.”

Mr. Thea said at about 10 a.m. on Saturday, anti-human trafficking police prevented Lach Sokcheata, 35, from boarding a plane with the girl and four women bound for Kuala Lumpur.

“They were due to fly at 11:10 a.m, but we stopped them on time,” he said. “We cannot imagine what would happen next to the victims if they arrived there.”

Mr. Thea said the suspect convinced the victims to go to Malaysia by telling them they would earn $400 per month as waitresses there. The four women were all under the age of 27 and working in a garment factory, Mr. Thea said, adding that all five victims were returned to their families on Saturday.

“[The suspect] paid $300 for plane tickets, $300 for passports and gave them $100 to buy the new clothes before they were going to fly,” he said.

“After her arrest, and [during] questioning, the suspect admitted to human trafficking; she had plans to send the victims to a night club in Kuala Lumpur for sex work.”

Mr. Thea said Ms. Sokcheata remained in the custody of anti-human trafficking police on Sunday and would appear in court on Monday.

“We have accused her of human trafficking,” he said. “We are still investigating whether more people were involved with this case or not.”

Municipal deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth could not be reached.

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