A 21-year-old woman says she feels like a “newborn” after arriving home to Phnom Penh last week, rescued from China alongside nine other sex-trafficking victims. The woman was 17 when she left Cambodia hoping for a good job, but became entrapped in years of abuse.
“Arrived in Cambodia. I’m feeling so much excitement,” the woman said in a message. “Like a newborn.”
The woman said she was currently in two weeks of Covid-19 quarantine as required for all arrivals.
“I don’t even know how much excitement there’s going to be when I arrive home and see my family,” she said. “It’s so exciting, like being a newborn.”
The woman was rescued after posting a public message on Facebook calling for help late last year: “They’ve forced me to take husbands here. They said if I don’t take them as husbands, they would sell me to a brothel.”
Her mother previously said that her daughter had gone to find work despite her protests by saying, “Mother, if I don’t go, we won’t have a house or land. And you are sick.”
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Koy Koung said on Friday that 10 Cambodian women had been repatriated from China, arriving on Wednesday on two separate flights.
“Most of the victims were cheated by brokers to work illegally and married foreign men there,” Koung said.
Victims have previously said that the “marriages” aren’t formal or legal, and the women are passed between “husbands.”
Chiv Phally, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said authorities were waiting for the quarantine period to end before meeting the rescued victims.
“We will interview them to find the traffickers and take legal action against them,” Phally said.
Meas Sa Im, deputy head of rights group Adhoc’s women and children’s rights department, said the group was aware of more than 50 other cases of Cambodian victims somewhere in China and still unable to be rescued. The group had identified more than 20 in 2020, she said.
Some traffickers had been arrested in Cambodia, but the networks spanning Vietnam and China were unbroken, Sa Im said.
“We don’t know the exact reasons, but there could be corruption,” she said. “We haven’t seen [traffickers] in Vietnam and China get punished, or authorities [there] show full cooperation to catch the traffickers’ networks.”