Vietnamese nationals get between five and 15 years
A Cambodian court has found six Vietnamese citizens guilty of forcing children as young as five into prostitution in Phnom Penh's notorious Svay Pak brothel district, handing down sentences of up to 15 years for the offenses.
The four women and three men were arrested during a March raid on the district, in which 37 underage girls were rescued. Police were acting on a tip-off from the US-based International Justice Mission, a Christian human rights group which videotaped sex trade transactions in the area.
The girls, all from Vietnam, ranged between five years old and 18. The International Justice Mission's videotapes showed people in the process of arranging the sale of young girls.
Judge Tan Senarong said he wanted to apply tough sentences to instill fear into those who would think of committing such actions. "We want to stop this sex trafficking effectively that is why we handed down the maximum sentence. Those who have any intention to work in this business should be afraid of the full force of the law," he said.
Two women and two men were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment each, while another man received a five year sentence and a woman, 10 years. Another woman was released owing to lack of evidence.
Of the 37 girls, 10 appeared at the court on Wednesday as witnesses for the trial, according to a report by Agence France-Presse. All the defendants denied the charges although secret video tapes showed the six selling girls and bargaining prices with clients.
Child rights advocates say Cambodia is becoming a magnet for foreign pedophiles due to lax law enforcement, corruption in the courts and poverty that forces children into prostitution.
The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, said in a recent report that up to 2.5 million Vietnamese children were at risk from exploitation, violence, neglect, and abuse, as a result of the rapid economic growth of recent years in the country.