By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
The former head of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking police was tried in absentia yesterday with soliciting protection money from brothel owners and paying officers to hide underage sex workers, even after he was sacked.
Eam Rattana, the former chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police office was sacked in 2009 but allegedly continued to assist brothel owners until he was charged with corruption in April this year.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn, said the 54-year-old fled who fled into hiding in April this year shortly after a warrant was issued for his arrest, provided protection to three men running sexual services out of their coffee shops.
“Eam Rattana ordered to his closest people to collect money for him from a number of brothels for his protection from police crack downs or arrests,” he said.
He is accused of providing protection to 53-year-old Sok Heng, 45-year-old Ly Mao and 50-year-old Nguyen Yaing Tung, even after being demoted to deputy chief of staff for the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Commissioner.
Sok Heng was arrested during a raid on his coffee shop in Daun Penh district’s Boeung Raing commune while Ly Mao and Nguven Yaing Tung both also managed to evade police capture.
Municipal anti-human trafficking police officer Pov Heng testified that Eam Rattana asked him to provide information about investigations into brothel owners who paid him a monthly fee and alert him to police raids against them - during a meeting in October 2010.
“To work this for him I was paid an extra [US]$200 from him per month. I got this money from him every month, on the fifth at the beginning of every new month,” he said.
Another of Eam Rattana’s former subordinates, Sok Reaksmey, said the accused paid him to hide sex workers under 18-years-old during the raids.
“I also received $200 from him per month,” he said.
Defendant Sok Heng denied he had run a brothel from his coffee shop and said he had merely borrowed money from his old friend Eam Rattana occasionally, whom he’d known since 1986.
But he alleged he had collected money from brothel owners for his boss’s replacement, current chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection police office, Keo Thea.
“I used to collect US$ 2500 from five brothels to Keo Thea every per month. I gave him [the money] via his police officer, Sreng Hong,” he said.
Keo Thea said the accusation was completely false and motivated by spite because he had replaced Eam Rattana after he was sacked for corruption – a close friend of Sok Heng.
“As a competent police official, I have always strictly obeyed police discipline and the laws. I could not commit this stupid thing. I think that this accusation is aimed at destroying my good profile, reputation and honor,” he said.
Prosecutor Hor Lina told the court there was sufficient evidence through investigations, research, documents and testimony to meet the burden of proof against all the accused.
“I would like to ask the court to decide on their case and punish them by the law,” he said.
Ly Mao, Nguven Yaing Tung and their defense lawyers could not reach for comment.
Duch Kimsorn said verdicts will be handed down on December 20.