Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday jailed a former Social Affairs Ministry secretary of state and his nephew for 15 years in connection with the trafficking of nearly 300 women to work as maids in Saudi Arabia.
Presiding Judge Koy Sao identified them as Ahmad Yahya and his nephew Ismael Pin Osman, a former official at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Both were charged following complaints filed by two victims, Eang Pov, 38, and Lah Nary, 22.
Judge Sao noted that Mr Yahya was also president of Accent Group, a company that facilitated migrants to work in Saudi Arabia.
He said both men were found guilty of unlawful removal for cross-border transfer under Article 11 of the Cambodian Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.
Judge Sao said both men recruited nearly 300 women, some of whom were underage, via Mr Yahya’s company from 2004 to 2017 and sold them for $20,000 each to employers in Saudi Arabia to work as maids.
“Following the trial and after completely studying all related documents and laws, the Council of Judges finds both accused guilty,” he said. “Therefore, the court has decided to convict them and sentence them to 15 years in prison each.”
“The court also orders both of them to jointly pay 120 million riels [$30,000] to victim Eang Pov and 80 million riels [$20,000] to victim Lah Nary as compensation,” Judge Sao added.
Ms Pov and her mother Sles Mayan, 57, applauded the court’s judgement.
Ms Pov said that in 2004, she was introduced to Mr Ismael Pin who informed her about overseas employment opportunities offered by Mr Yahya’s company in Phnom Penh.
She noted that because she trusted Mr Ismael Pin and Mr Yahya, who was the owner of the company and at that time a parliamentarian, she agreed to work as a maid in Saudi Arabia for $120 per month.
Ms Pov said that a week after she accepted the offer, her mother took her from the province to stay with Mr Yahya at his house in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.
Ms Pov said that later that year Mr Ismael Pin accompanied her and 18 other women by bus to Thailand where they flew to Saudi Arabia and she was employed by a rich family.
“They paid me $120 per month but they treated me like a slave and forced me to work almost 24 hours every day,” she said. “After working with them for seven months, they sold me for $20,000 to work with another family which did not pay me a salary and only gave me food and lodging.”
Ms Pov noted that she worked as a slave for the second family for over 10 years without payment and fled from the house in January last year.
Ms Pov said that after fleeing, she sought intervention form the Saudi Arabian police who sent her to the Cambodian embassy which facilitated her repatriation in February last year.
“I am very happy that the court has found truth and justice for me,” Ms Pov said. “I was waiting for this justice for more than 10 years.”
Mr Yahya told the court that he accepted his company recruited nearly 300 Cambodian women, including the two victims, to work as maids in Saudi Arabia between 2004 and 2017.
But he said that he did not sell them and was unaware they had been exploited in Saudi Arabia.
“I did not traffic or sell them to work as maids in Saudi Arabia,” Mr Yahya told the court. “I also did not know they were forced by the employers to work without payment.”