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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Cambodia deports 'sex slaves'
Six of the seven women rescued by Cambodia police
Hotel owner claims the women were dancers not prostitutes
Police in Cambodia are searching for a Romanian woman who has been charged in her absence with trafficking in humans.

The charge against the woman, Topirceanu Norica, comes a day after seven East European women were rescued from a Phnom Penh hotel where United Nations officials said they were forced into prostitution.

The problem is we do not know her face, only her name

Cambodia police

The women, aged between 18 and 24, told the Cambodia municipal court that a Romanian company had promised them jobs as dancers.

They said that on arrival in Cambodia their passports were confiscated by the hotel manager and they were forced to work as prostitutes.

Police search

The women, who left for home on Wednesday night, were arrested following a tip-off by UN human rights workers in the city.

The commander of Phnom Penh's military police forces, General Chhin Chanpor, said units were searching hotels and guest houses in the city for the Romanian woman.

But he said she may have already left the country.

"The problem is we do not know her face, only her name," General Chanpor said.

Military police raided Phnom Penh's Best Western Cangi hotel where they found the seven women.

They told the rescuers that they were required to provide sex, mostly to Cambodian, Chinese and Thai businessmen.

Lack of evidence

The women said they came to Cambodia through Istanbul and Bangkok, and were met at Bangkok airport by the hotel's Canadian owner, Richard Cheung.

child prostitutes
Human traffickers target teenage girls
Police arrested Mr Cheung but released him on Wednesday after questioning.

Court officials indicated there was no evidence to prosecute Mr Cheung.

But human rights workers expressed disatisfaction with the action, saying that based on what the women told them, the hotel owner could have been charged with human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Mr Cheung told reporters on Sunday that the women were dancers, not prostitutes.

He admitted holding their passports but only as collateral until they paid back expenses incurred while travelling to Cambodia from Europe two weeks ago.

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See also:

01 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
China targets kidnappers
29 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Sex slavery under attack
23 Feb 00 | Americas
Crackdown on sex slavery
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