Accessibility links

Breaking News

Cambodian Government Denies US Charge It Suspended Official Who Rescued Prostitutes

The government of Cambodia has denied charges by the U.S. State Department that it suspended a senior official whose department rescued scores of women from a suspected brothel. The rescued women were abducted from a shelter the following day.

The Cambodian government Wednesday denied the charge by the U.S. State Department that the official who ordered the raid on a Phnom Penh brothel to rescue scores of sex workers had been suspended.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington was deeply concerned over the suspension of General Un Sokunthea, the woman who heads Cambodia's anti-human trafficking department.

Anti-trafficking activists from a French organization, contacted in the Cambodian capital Wednesday, said they had no direct knowledge of the reported suspension.

But leaders of the group, which rescues and rehabilitates victims of sex trafficking, said Cambodian police had visited its shelter in Phnom Penh to begin an investigation into the abductions.

However, the group's legal advisor, Aarti Kapoor, told VOA that the group wants international investigators to be included on the investigation team.

"We are concerned that the information that's being communicated needs to be done officially, and it needs to be done with the interests of the truth," said Aarti Kapoor. "As one of the main parties involved in this case, we are calling for an independent international investigation team."

She said the team should include representatives of the United Nations, human rights organizations and an internationally recognized police force.

The group is AFESIP, an acronym for the French name Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances. AFESIP leaders told reporters in Bangkok that Cambodian police last week raided a hotel that was reportedly involved in the sex trade, and took away 83 women engaged in prostitution. The women were given shelter at the AFESIP facility pending an investigation.

Eight suspects were detained in the raid, but were released the following morning without explanation. A few hours later, two dozen attackers broke down the gates of the AFESIP shelter and took away the 83 rescued women, as well as eight others being sheltered in a separate case.

The attackers are still at large and the location of the abducted women is not known. The shelter has been temporarily closed because of threats to staff members. The Cambodian government ordered its investigation after condemnation by the United States and the European Union.