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Cambodia: SEX TRAP [EN]

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Uploaded on Mar 24, 2007

Many trafficking stories continue in different brothels at different places. Girls and women who start working as a prostitute in one place, in many cases Phnom Penh, often move, forced or voluntarily, to other brothels. The freedom of movement according to one's own choice, as well as adaptation to the kind of work, seems to increase the longer the women stay in 'business'. The women working in brothels in the provinces can tell their stories more freely and more self-confidently than those who are new arrivals under the strict supervision of the meebon. A prostitute interviewed in a brothel in Kompong Som was sold several times to different brothels. She related:

"I am a Cham woman. I was born in Vietnam. My parents have a small farm in Moat Chruk. I used to sell food to earn some money. At that time I had a boyfriend. I thought that he would be faithful with me, but he left me. I was very disappointed. Later, a lady who was the mother of a friend came to see me. She explained that it is very beautiful in Phnom Penh, and persuaded me to go with her to visit Phnom Penh. She ordered me not to tell my parents. I believed her, so I followed her. She brought me to a brothel in Tuol Kork. I cried. The brothel owner bought me for $300. She suspected that I was deceived to be sold. She bought me, because she didn't want me to go anywhere. I had to work as a prostitute to repay her the $300. I stayed with her for eight months. Then I got out and she gave me $100 to go back to Vietnam. But I didn't know where to go. I could not speak Khmer. Then I met a lady who let me to dance in her bar and taught me some Khmer. I danced in the bar with my girl friends with whom I rented a house. The lady first planned to sell me at 'Kilometer 11' [Svay Pak] for $1,000. But when she met the meebon, they could not come to an agreement. Then she brought me back and sold me to another meebon for $500. I stayed there for one year. I worked as a prostitute and also as a servant. The meebon locked me in the house and didn't let me go out. It was like in a prison. I worked there for one year without earning any money. Fortunately, I could escape from this place. I lied to the meebon that I was ill and that I wanted to see a doctor to treat my disease. The meebon agreed. She lent me $10 and let another girl come with me. The girl was also sold to the brothel, like me. When we got out, I told her that I wanted to run away. She wanted to come with me. So we both left for Kompong Som."

Commercial sex workers do not change brothels, dancing halls or bars only because they are forced to do so by being sold. A meebon in Svay Rieng noted:

"When the old women go from my brothel, they tell other women to come here, because they know I am good. The women who are here a long time want to go somewhere else, because they become new again and can earn much money. They often go for a while, but after some time they come back here. Then they are new again."

After the women or girls have earned enough to compensate for the loan or recruitment fee, they are relatively free to go to another place. For the business of the meebon as well as the girl herself, this is even more profitable, since clients want change in the supply of women. Brothel owners do not always have to search actively for new women. They can use the women who worked for them to recruit new women, as a meebon in Ratanakiri mentioned "when the women who worked for me have earned enough money, they leave and inform their friends about my place." But also motorbike drivers are involved. The same meebon remarked:

"A motorbike driver can usually earn only 10,000 riel a day. But when they bring a prostitute they can earn more. So, when they know a woman has left my brothel to work somewhere else, they will bring me a new one."

Although most women say they do not want to continue working as prostitutes, they also do not necessarily quit the sex business as soon as they are declared free to go. Some of them are at that point left without any money at all, while others view this work as the only possible option for earning a lot of money. The women and girls, who already had to go through the shame this work puts on them, do not want to return home empty-handed. They want something to show for their absence, and money is probably the most suitable. For many women, the economic motivations for continuing working as a prostitute are very strong. Some women go back home every once in a while to bring back the money earned and return later to their brothel madam in order to earn more money. A Vietnamese prostitute in Svay Rieng mentioned that she had been back to Vietnam two times during her one-year stay in Cambodia. Every time she took back some money, one or two chi gold. She planned to go back again for Vietnamese New Year, but said she might decide to work again for some time in the same brothel.

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