Sex worker testifies at NSW slavery trial

Rungnapha Kanbut has pleaded not guilty to slavery and proceeds of crime charges.
Rungnapha Kanbut has pleaded not guilty to slavery and proceeds of crime charges.

A Thai sex worker who was spat on and bruised by Sydney clients was told to "just put up with it" by the woman she lived with, a jury has heard.

Rungnapha Kanbut, 57, is on trial in the NSW District Court after pleading not guilty to six charges including intentionally possessing a slave and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Kanbut allegedly told two Thai women they each had a $45,000 debt to pay off - and would do so through their sex work - after they arrived in Sydney and were taken to live with her in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

The first female complainant gave evidence on Friday, through a Thai interpreter, that clients "quite often" spat on her and caused her bruises or bleeding and that she told "Rung" about the ill-treatment.

The woman, under questioning from crown prosecutor Peter Neil SC, said Kanbut's response was "to take certain medicines, to just put up with it until the time was up and to just keep the customer".

After starting work in various sex shops across Sydney, she had pain in her uterus and "sometimes" noticed blood in her urine.

The prosecutor asked: "At any time did she (Kanbut) take you to a doctor?"

"Never," the woman replied.

She told the court her hours were 10am until 10pm but she'd often work through until 8am the following day.

Mr Neil asked: "If that happened, what time did you start work again on that day?"

"10.30am or 11am of the next day," she replied.

The complainant said Kanbut told her she would have a free day off work each week but it never happened and she never travelled to or from work on her own.

She said the $45,000 took her "months" to pay back and she was never told why she owed it.

"Don't think about running away because you really can't run away anyway. You have to pay the debt first," the woman alleges Kanbut told her.

She earned $500 cash or more on average each day, after the sex shop owner took their share, which she gave to Kanbut who also kept a record of the exchanges.

She said she was allowed to keep tips of "sometimes $5, sometimes $10" in cash for herself.

The woman said she understood her family in Thailand was sent $1000 by Kanbut on her behalf each month.

Defence barrister Jeffrey Clarke said there were issues with some of the women's allegations but overall "the real issue here is whether or not what is being described by these witnesses amounts to slavery".

The trial continues before Judge Nanette Williams.

Australian Associated Press