Human Trafficking Committee Vows Action Regardless of Suspected Links

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Neth Savoeun chairs a high-level meeting on Tuesday to discuss the trafficking of foreigners into scam compounds. (Neth Savoeun’s Facebook page)

Authorities met again over the country’s ongoing human trafficking scourge, in a committee headed by National Police and military police bosses Neth Savoeun and Sao Sokha — pledging action regardless of any suspected links to those officials.

Around 20 high-level officials met in Phnom Penh on Tuesday in another round of discussions about tackling the trafficking of foreign nationals at scam compounds across the country.

Participants included National Police chief Savoeun and military police commander Sokha, who heads the newly formed committee; immigration department director Kirth Chantharith; Information Ministry secretary of state Chum Kosal; Labor Ministry director-general Seng Sakada; Council of Ministers quick reaction unit spokesperson Tith Sothea; deputy police commissioners Dy Vichea and Chiv Phally; military police deputy commander Hong Vinol; and National Police spokesperson Chhay Kimkhoeun.

Kimkhoeun said on Wednesday that the meeting had decided on a strategy that would soon be implemented by those involved.

“We have prepared a strategy … as a first step at yesterday’s conference,” Kimkhoeun said. “[We] plan to notify the workforce this Friday.”

Immigration spokesman Keo Vanthan also said the meeting was about the dissemination of steps that needed to be taken.

Amid months of reports and victims’ accounts about the trafficking, powerful tycoons and politicians have come under scrutiny for apparent associations with scam compounds.

Both Sokha and Savoeun are close to some who have appeared in the reports.

Savoeun is an in-law to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Hun To: Savoeun’s wife Hun Kimleng is To’s sister, and To’s Lixin business has been named in trafficking chats and recent trafficking arrests.

Sokha, meanwhile, worked with, and was considered close to, late businessman Rithy Samnang — Sokha is head of the president of the Football Federation while Samnang headed Crown FC. Samnang’s K.B. Hotel was associated with scam compounds surrounding it on the same “Kaibo” block in Sihanoukville.

The connections are also interlinked, as K.B. Hotel director Chen Al Len is also in business with To via Heng He Commercial Bank.

Rithy Raksmei, Samnang’s younger brother, also heads the K99 group of companies, which has a compound in Sihanoukville named by victims as an alleged site of detention.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Savoeun’s link to To and Sokha’s association with Samnang would not affect investigations.

“[They] have their kin, but there can be “no violation of the law, regardless of your connection to powerful networks or to police,” Sopheak said.

The government would not allow the human trafficking to continue as it damages society and may be involved with money laundering, he continued, and rejected criticism of the committee’s work.

“If we don’t do it, they say we don’t have commitment. … And when we do it, it’s also wrong? … So let’s just do it and rescue them.”

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