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U.S. raps Cambodia over sex trade

From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

Cambodia's approach to fighting child sex trafficking has drawn criticism from the United States.
U.S. State Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States has criticized Cambodia's punishment of the policewoman responsible for the rescue of 84 female victims of sex trafficking from a Phnom Penh brothel.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday the Bush administration was "deeply concerned" over the suspension of Un Sokunthea, the head of Cambodia's Anti-Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, and called on Phnom Penh to "do the right thing and support these kind of activities."

Under Un's direction, the Cambodian police rescued 84 women and young girls from a brothel last week. But the next day, gunmen kidnapped them and seven others from the shelter where they were taken after their rescue.

"We fully believe that General Un should be commended for the courageous efforts to investigate this brothel and other brothels," Boucher said.

"Obviously, any punitive measures against her would call into question Cambodia's commitment to fight human trafficking."

Last week, the U.S. State Department condemned the raid on the shelter and urged the Cambodian government to take "immediate and urgent action" to rescue and protect the victims.

The U.S. State Department statement also "applauded the brave actions taken by Cambodia's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection."

The organization that ran the French shelter, Acting for Women in Distressing Situations (AFESIP), shut down operations after its director and other workers received death threats last week. The group receives U.S. funding.

In a statement issued this week, the group disputed the Cambodian government's claims that the girls and women were not being held in prostitution against their will.

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