Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday jailed a woman and a man for seven years and ordered them to pay compensation to three out of 30 Cambodian women whom they trafficked to marry men in China between 2014 and last year.
It also sentenced in absentia the mastermind in the case, who is at large, to eight years jail and issued a warrant for her arrest.
The court dropped the charges against two other men in the case because they were found to not be involved in the trafficking.
Presiding Judge Im Vannak identified the woman as Sou Sopheap, 37, who recruited the victims and the man as Sok Sothearak, 34, who took them from Cambodia to China.
He identified the mastermind as Lim Sokheng and ordered that she also jointly pays the $5,000 compensation along with Ms Sopheap and Mr Sothearak to each victim.
“The court issued a warrant for Lim Sokheng’s arrest and ordered police to look for her and bring her to prison in accordance with the court’s verdict,” Judge Vannak said. “The court also ordered the three of them to jointly pay 20 million riels [about $5,000] each in compensation to the three victims.”
He noted that the other two men, Khun Saravuth, 48, and Phal Pha, 34, were released from prison by the court because they did not commit the offence.
Judge Vannak said that Ms Sopheap, Mr Sothearak, Mr Saravuth and Mr Pha were arrested on May 31 last year by the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking police at their rental houses in Tuol Kork district’s Phsar Depo I commune.
He said after their arrests, police seized two Lexus RX 300 cars, $9,500, eight phones and documents from them.
Judge Vannak said that all four, and Ms Sokheng in absentia, were charged with unlawful removal for cross-border transfer under article 11 of Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.
Deputy prosecutor Keo Sokunthear said that Ms Sokheng, Ms Sopheap and Mr Sothearak belonged to a gang of human traffickers.
She said they were identified by the three victims after they were rescued and brought back to Cambodia from China and filed complaints in March last year.
Ms Sokunthear noted that according to police investigations, between 2014 and May last year, Ms Sokheng, Ms Sopheap and Mr Sothearak had recruited a total of 30 women from Cambodia to marry men in China and received between $5,000 and $10,000 in commission.
Ms Sopheap, Mr Sothearak and their lawyers could not be reached for comment after the sentencing.
However, during their trial last month, Ms Sopheap and Mr Sothearak admitted committing the offence.
They told the court that the victims had begged them to find rich foreign men to marry to make money to support their poor families.
Ms Sopheap said that in 2014 she started working to select and bring beautiful Cambodian women to marry Chinese men.
She told the court that between 2014 until her arrest in May last year, she helped 30 Cambodian women, aged between 20 and 27, from poor families in provinces who begged her to find foreign men to marry.
Ms Sopheap said that to help them, she contacted an unidentified Chinese man, who is at large, who could speak Khmer and lived in Phnom Penh.
She said that the Chinese man arranged and paid for all the expenses including travel and fees for passports and visas.
Ms Sopheap told the court that she had hired Mr Saravut to help process the travel documents and Mr Pha to take the women to China, noting that she paid them from $300 to $1,000 per case.
“The victims had begged me for help and said that they were poor and wanted to make money to support their families,” she said. “I did not sell them to marry Chinese men in China as accused.”