News/Cambodia: I can't control brothel-going officials, says PM at launch

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Subject: News/Cambodia: I can't control brothel-going officials, says PM at launch
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Mar 27 2000 - 11:43:06 EST


> I can't control brothel-going officials, says PM at launch
> By Kay Johnson and Khieu Kola
>
> Phnom Penh -- Prime Minister Hun Sen has launched a nationwide project
> to combat the growing problem of sex slavery, but admitted he cannot ban
> government officials from visiting the brothels that fuel the sex trade.
>
> "I control them only eight hours a day. After that, they take care of
> themselves," Mr Hun Sen said yesterday when asked if he would forbid his
> ministers and advisers from practices such as buying virgins and
> frequenting brothels.
>
> "What we can do is appeal to them to limit themselves within the
> framework of the happiness of the family," he said.
>
> Women's advocates say government officials, police and military make up
> a high percentage of the clientele in Cambodia's brothels, many of which
> sell virgins to the highest bidder, lock their "employees" in windowless
> rooms for days and beat them if they refuse customers.
>
> Mr Hun Sen was on hand yesterday for the launch of a 3.7 billion riel
> (US$980,000) programme to educate families about the dangers of sex
> trafficking and train officials to combat the trade.
>
> The first of its kind in Cambodia, the project will train 2,000
> officials and run nationwide television and radio spots warning families
> to be careful.
>
> The Ministry of Women's Affairs estimates 40,000 Cambodian women have
> been sold into slavery across the border into neighbouring Thailand and
> into the war-torn country's own growing number of brothels.
>
> More than half the country's prostitutes are forced into the trade -
> either sold by family members or tricked with promises of jobs as maids
> or cooks - aid workers say.
>
> Lim, age 17, was one of them. She came to the capital from her native
> province of Kompong Cham a few months ago after being promised a job
> making 50,000 riel (US$13.25) a month as a cook.
>
> Instead, she found herself drugged and locked into a room in a brothel
> in Phnom Penh's infamous Tuol Kok red light district. Lim's first
> customer bought her virginity and raped her while she was drugged.
>
> But she is one of the few lucky ones.
>
> After only 40 hellish days, she was rescued in a police raid.
>
> "I want the Government to punish the woman who sold me, but I don't even
> know who she is," Lim said yesterday.
>
> Anti-trafficking advocates hailed yesterday's project launch as a start
> in an uphill battle to combat trafficking.
>
> But they said the problem was deeply entrenched, with Cambodia's rich
> and powerful among the worst offenders.
>
> The head of the Cambodian Committee to Protect Children's Rights, Yim
> Po, said any effort to crack down on trafficking would have to include
> measures to rein in the excesses of officials.
>
> "I would say 80 per cent of Cambodian men go to brothels, especially
> when they travel," Mr Yim said.
>
> "But government and high-ranking officials are different. Often, they
> want to have virgins."
>
>


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