Cambodia: gunmen kidnap 92 women from shelter

Cambodia: gunmen kidnap 92 women from shelter

Douglas, Carol Anne

PHNOM PENH-Armed gunmen stormed a shelter and kidnapped 92 women and girls who had been rescued from a brothel the day before. The attackers made death threats against the staff of the shelter, Aesif (a French acronym for Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances).

Somaly Mam, the shelter’s director, closed it temporarily because she and her staff were not safe, calling on the Cambodian government to intervene.

The U.S. State Department and the European Union have condemned the raid on the shelter, which receives U.S. funds to work against trafficking.

The brothel, which calls itself a hotel, claims that the women fled from the shelter and came back to the “hotel” of their own free will. The “hotel’s” staff said the women will file a complaint against the shelter for illegal detention. The shelter’s staff says the women were forced to put their thumbprints on the complaint. Fifty of the women went to the U.S. embassy and said they were bar girls, not prostitutes.

The Cambodian Interior Ministry said it is investigating the situation. However, the U.S. embassy has criticized the ministry for suspending the police officer (a woman) whose team initially rescued the girls and women from the brothel. The Cambodian government has denied that charge.

-info from Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Jan/Feb 2005

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