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The Younger The Better: 19,250 Children Trapped In Cambodia's Sex Industry

January 30, 2003 · 


A UNICEF survey concluded that 35 percent of Cambodia’s 55,000 prostitutes are children under the age of 16. The oldest girls in the sex industry today are teenagers, says Sao Chhoeurth, who works with AFESIP, a French NGO that rescues and rehabilitates child prostitutes.

With recent media attention on  pedophiles such as Gary Glitter in Cambodia and Matthew Kelly in the United States of America, child prostitution and pornography have suddenly become extremely important to Cambodia’s cultural image.

With the death of Pol Pot and the end of the Khmer regime in 1998, Cambodia prospered as a sex attraction for the many pedophiles keen on exploring new avenues after Thailand, Vietnam and other South-East Asian nations.

The main brothel areas in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, are Toul Kork, Keo Chandra and Svay Pak. Svay Pak, a dusty village 11 km north of Phnom Penh was a thriving village with 50 odd brothels and child prostitutes as young as 6 years old till last Wednesday when the police raided the village. The village which received at least 50 tourists every night, who paid a measly US$ 3 for sex with a child, and scores of locals is now a ghost town. No one was arrested although there were dozens of pimps and customers in the brothels at the time of the raid.

Phnom Penh police chief General Soun Chheangly said a decision was made to shut down Svay Pak becuase it’s bad name that affects the Cambodia’s cultural reputation.

It took continuous campaigning by women’s rights groups and the Mu Sochua, Cambodia’s women’s affairs minister, for more than 2 years and a high profile ASEAN meeting, for the Svay Pak raid to occur and the brothels to close down. Only a few of the child prostitutes released from the brothels have reached AFESIP and the Ministry of Social Welfare. The majority have been sent on to brothels in other tourist centres, including Siem Reap, the service town for the ancient Angkor Wat temple complex, and Sihanoukville, a popular beach resort in the south of the country. The police action had been widely advertised in advance.


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