The sex trade continues to thrive in Cambodia, despite an anti-trafficking law and crackdowns on brothels, an advocate for a leading foundation says.
“The brothels have closed, but the brothel owners won’t be defeated, said Vann Sina, a monitor for the anti-trafficking Mam Somaly Foundation. “It means that they’ve changed into something else, but are still in the sex trade. They’ve changed from brothels to guesthouses, small grocery stores, small karaoke parlors, cafes, massage clubs, restaurants, and sex businesses along the parks. As I said, it’s almost everywhere.”
The foundation was started by Mam Somaly, who herself escaped the sex trade and has become an award-winning advocate protecting young women and girls. Vann Sina gave a talk in Washington last week, in talks sponsored by Free the Slaves, a US non-profit group.
While some brothels have gone underground, Vann Sina said, others remain, with girls as young as five years old serving clients.
Vann Sina, too, was a victim of sex trafficking, brought from Vietnam to Cambodia at age 13, her virginity sold to a Westerner. She suffered druggings and constant abuse when she refused to serve clients until she was rescued by Afesip, another organization run by Mam Somaly, where she became staff.
She urged Cambodia police and other authorities to strengthen their laws and work to end the trade.
“The laws may be ineffective or they may not be implemented well,” said Betsy Bramon, of Free the Slaves, which is based in Washington. “Maybe the system is very corrupt, and that is a very serious problem in Cambodia.”
Law enforcement officials in Cambodia say the Ministry of Interior and local authorities have greatly reduced human trafficking.
Cambodian police have never tolerated any trafficking of women and children, which contradicts the dignity of Cambodian culture, said police spokesman Kirt Chantharith.
“Anyone who knows about the activities related to the women and children trafficking or any other crimes, please report to our police,” he said. “We have two lines for phone calls. You can call free via 117 and 118.”
Sources are confidential, he said.