Two Cambodians and a Japanese national were yesterday tried by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for trafficking ten women to work in the sex trade in Japan in 2016.
Presiding judge Veng Huoth identified the accused as Fukui Susumu, 52, Seng Chandy, 30, and Lim Leakena, 28.
They were charged with “unlawful removal for cross-border transfer” under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. They face up to 15 years in jail if convicted.
Judge Huoth said they were arrested in February by the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department.
They were arrested after complaints from 10 Cambodian women who accused them of recruiting them for work in Japan, where the job turned out to be sex work in massage shops.
According to a police report, in August 2016, Mr Susumu, Mr Chandy and Ms Leakena recruited the Cambodian women, who were aged between 20 and 25, to work in Japan.
Mr Susumu allegedly promised they would earn between $3,000 and $5,000 a month. Mr Chandy and Ms Leakena prepared and arranged the women’s passports, visas and other travel documents.
But after the women arrived in Japan, they were sold to have sex in massage shops. The women were rescued by the Cambodian embassy in collaboration with Japanese police in November. They were repatriated at the end of December 2017.
After returning home, the victims filed a lawsuit against the three accused.
At yesterday’s trial, Mr Susumu and Ms Leakena admitted they recruited the girls, but denied selling them into the sex trade.
Mr Susumu said the victims were sent to work in restaurants and retail shops, not as masseuses.
“I accept that I helped recruit them for work in restaurants in Japan. But I did not know that they were later sold for work as masseuses,” he told the court. “I did not sell them. They were sold by the shops’ owners there.”
Ms Leakena claimed to be ignorant of the entire case, telling the court she was only in charge of arranging the travel documents.
“In this case, I helped Mr Susumu prepare and arrange the victims ’s passports, visas and other travel documents in Cambodia. But I did not know about the work in Japan,” she said. “I deny my charges because I did not do anything wrong.”
Mr Chandy was released on bail and did not attend yesterday’s hearing.
The trial is set to continue on an unspecified date.