Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Teenager Rescued After Trafficked To China For Marriage, Police Search For Ringleader

A man watches a video posted by a girl on social media calling for help, March 11, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
A man watches a video posted by a girl on social media calling for help, March 11, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Interior Ministry police are searching for the ringleader in a human trafficking case following the rescue of a 16-year-old who was trafficked to China.

The teenager from Tbong Khmum province shared her plight in a one-minute video which was posted on social media and shared by Facebook account Neang Tida saying that she was cheated and sold to China by a broker.

“They told me I was brought [here] to work, but now they have sold me, and kept me in a room for five to six months without letting me out. They have locked the room from the outside,” she said.

Calling on the Prime Minister Hun Manet and relevant authorities to intervene, Phipha said the broker who took her to China threatened her “not to run away or do anything”.

“The ringleaders always called to warn me not to think of doing anything wrong or to run away […] But I made the video, although I was very scared. I was afraid that if I posted it, they would come and hurt me again,” she added.

Tboung Khmum provincial administration issued a statement on Sunday after receiving information about the case. Police officials investigated and met her sister to ascertain the victim’s identity. Phipha was said to have left her hometown to work as a garment worker and send money to her family every month, but after five or six months, there was no contact from her again. 

Interior Ministry spokesperson Touch Sokhak confirmed a 16-year-old girl was rescued from a seven-storey building in Zhejiang province on Sunday in a joint operation with Chinese authorities. She is now staying at the public security bureau before being repatriated to Cambodia.

The Chinese authorities are currently working with the Cambodian embassy in China to investigate further and make arrangements for her travel home.

“According to her, it is a human trafficking issue as syndicates brought her to work in China, but was in fact sold for marriage to a Chinese man,” Sokhak said.

NGO rights group Licadho operation director Am Sam Ath expressed concern that human trafficking has taken on a new facet where people are said to be taken on a tour or for work but forced to marry with foreigners or Chinese men. 

“The continued occurrence of human trafficking is concerning, especially trafficking for marriage in China.

“We notice that there is still a gap in law enforcement where ringleaders are not arrested abroad with the result being women and children suffering in their hands instead,” Sam Ath said.

He pointed out that in recent years, the US report downgraded Cambodia to Tier Three in the “blacklist of human trafficking cases”. This has affected the country, in terms of investment, tourism and other issues involving development.

In 2023, the Interior Ministry’s report revealed that 157 human trafficking cases were busted, with the arrest of 185 people – 37 of them being women and foreigners​, 11. The authorities also rescued 495 victims, where 131 of them were linked to sex trafficking.

In addition, 151 were arrested, including 27 women, four foreigners.

As for human trafficking cases, 26 cases were thwarted, where 34 people were arrested. Ten of them were women, seven foreigners and 221 victims were released. Some 182 victims were sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs and 313 were sent back to their guardians.

(Additional reporting by Ly Rosslan)