Sex 'slave' rarely allowed out, court told
A Thai sex worker allegedly kept as a slave in a Canberra brothel today told a jury she rarely left the apartment, except on grocery shopping trips.
And the witness has said the alleged brothel madam asked her not to tell a fellow sex worker she was paying off a debt and working in breach of her visa conditions.
Watcharaporn Nantahkhum is on trial in the ACT Supreme Court charged with possessing a slave and perverting the course of justice.
The 45-year-old Kambah woman is also facing four charges under the federal Migration Act including allowing an unlawful non-citizen to work in conditions of exploitation.
But she has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and her barrister has urged the jury to keep an open mind.
The charges stem from mid-2007, when Nantahkhum was registered as a sole operator sex worker operating out of a Braddon apartment, and relate to two Thai women.
One of the women - the subject of the slavery charge – is currently giving evidence in the trial through a Thai interpreter.
The court had previously heard Nantahkhum took the alleged victim’s passport away from her after she arrived in Canberra.
Today the witness said Nantahkhum subsequently gave it back just prior to a trip to a doctor because she “knew that going to see a doctor I need passport”.
The Crown has alleged the woman’s earnings were taken to cover a $43,000 debt owed to those who facilitated her travel arrangements.
The alleged victim told the court she paid off that debt by early October, and had paid off most of the mortgage on her family’s rice field by the following April.
She kept a ledger, tendered in court, detailing the number of clients she serviced and the amount paid towards the debt.
The court heard the alleged complainant and another sex worker were moved out of the apartment complex at some stage following a complaint from a neighbour.
The witness said a prostitute with a working visa stayed in the apartment while she and the other woman were moved to nearby house.
It was there Nantahkhum allegedly began charging each woman $200 each per day to cover the rent – a cost levied even when the women were too ill to work.
In April 2008 they allegedly left the apartment and struck out on their own after suspecting their employer’s friend had gone to Melbourne to find replacements.
“I didn’t have anywhere to go, but I must go, I must find a way to go to show that I can,” the complainant said.
The trial before Justice Richard Refshauge continues.