Defendants Testify at Chai Hour II Hotel Trial; Judges May Reinvestigate Charges in Hotel Case; Chai Hour II Hotel Owner Sentenced to 5 Years.
Defendants Testify at Chai Hour II Hotel Trial1
During questioning at the long-awaited Chai Hour II Hotel trial on Tuesday, two female defendants admitted to selling a 17-year-old girl's virginity to a customer for $1,000, but the hotel's owner and manager both denied any knowledge of the incident.
The Chai Hour II first gained notoriety on Dec 7, 2004, when 83 women and girls were removed from the hotel after by police and anti-trafficking NGO AFESIP. However, seven suspects arrested during the raid were released just hours later by police on the orders of a powerful official.
The following day, approximately 30 men forced their way into the AFESIP shelter and released all the women that were taken from the hotel. Te Pao Ly, the 34-year-old owner of the scandal-wracked hotel, is facing charges of conspiracy to traffic persons and illegal possession of a K-59 handgun. Manager Sam Leng, 56, is also facing a conspiracy charge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. San Sinith and Khun Navy, both 21, are charged with human trafficking for attempting to sell their housemate's virginity to an unidentified man on 7 Sept 2005.
The alleged victim testified that she asked her housemates to sell her virginity because she needed the money to help her family. She added that she could not remember the face of the man who paid $1,000, but said he disappeared without having sex only minutes before police came in.
Lawyer Pov Sreysour, who represents the two female defendants, argued that his clients were innocent of human trafficking because they did not lure or force the victim to sell herself.
San Sinith said she worked at the hotel playing karaoke videos and had met the unidentified man the night before the incident. Khun Navy said she did not work at the hotel. Te Pao Ly and Sam Leng denied knowing either of the female defendants.
Sam Leng and both the female defendants were arrested immediately following the payment, and Te Pao Ly was arrested 10 days later in Koh Kong province. He said his absence from the scene of the crime proved his innocence of the conspiracy charge.
Te Pao Ly initially said that pornographic videos found in the raid on his hotel-which was also a karaoke and massage parlor-were left by friends. But when pressed for his friends' names, he admitted that the videos were sometimes played for customers who requested them.
Sam Leng denied pornography had been shown at the karaoke and massage establishment. Te Pao Ly also defended his possession of the handgun found at the scene, stating that he only had it because he had formerly served as an RCAF intelligence officer and hadn't returned the gun after returning to civilian life.
Presiding Judge Kong Seth called the male defendants' claims of ignorance of events in the hotel an "excuse" to escape imprisonment, but he didn't issue a verdict or announce a follow-up date when he stopped the trial proceedings shortly after 5 pm.
Judges May Reinvestigate Charges in Hotel Case2
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Kong Seth that he will issue a decision next week on whether to reinvestigate charges in the Chai Hour II Hotel human trafficking case. Two women were charged with the crime and the Phnom Penh hotel's owner and manager were both charged with conspiracy and illegal weapons possession following an alleged attempt to sell a 17-year-old girl's virginity for $1,000 on Sept 7. The case was tried on Feb 7 but no verdict has been issued. Kong Seth said he may reinvestigate following a request by defense lawyer Thuy Sokun. The lawyer made the request because the customer who allegedly paid $1,000 for sex with the teenager has never been apprehended. Thuy Sokun said that a Prey Veng province man suspected of having solicited the girl has been identified by the Interior Ministry. The lawyer said the defense asserts the Prey Veng man was not the alleged customer.
Chai Hour II Hotel Owner Sentenced to 5 Years3
Te Pao Ly, the owner of the infamous Chai Hour II Hotel, was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison for colluding with two human traffickers and for illegally owning a K-59 handgun, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Kong Seth said.
The two female traffickers, Khun Nary, 23 and Sann Sreynit, 21, were sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to sell their younger housemate's virginity for $1,000, he said on Sunday. The hotel's manager Sam Leng was also sentenced to four years in prison for colluding in trafficking.
"The court verdict was unjust," said Seng Vuochhun, Te Pao Ly's lawyer, adding that he plans to appeal his 39-year-old client's case next week. "[When] the police raided the hotel, my client was not inside. His gun has a permit and it is still valid."
Huy Sokun, the lawyer for both women, also said the verdict was unfair. "My clients reject the municipal court verdict. The punishment is too heavy. Their action was only as brokers," Huy Sokun said, adding that he too planned to appeal. He said his clients were not guilty of trafficking because they didn't force their housemate into the arrangement. In court on Feb 7, the 17-year-old said she asked her two housemates to sell her virginity because she needed money for her family. Kong Seth said the four have two months to appeal.
The Chai Hour II first gained notoriety Dec 7, 2004, when police and the anti-trafficking NGO Afesip raided the hotel, removing 83 women and girls and taking them to an Afesip shelter. The following day, about 30 men descended on the shelter, forced open its entrance gate and removed the females.
Following the scandal that ensued, the US leveled limited sanctions against Cambodia for its poor anti-trafficking efforts. Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said she welcomed prosecution of traffickers but felt the sentences in this case were unfair.
"I think it is good that traffickers are prosecuted and punished...I hope the authorities continue in this direction," she said. "But by definition the traffickers and their accomplices commit the same crime."1 Adapted from: Prak Chan Thul and Ethan Plaut. "Defendants Testify at Chai Hour II Hotel Trial." The Cambodia Daily. 8 February 2006. (Source: UNIAP Cambodia).
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