Friday, June 06, 2008

Cambodian prostitutes protest police crackdown

In yesterday's news: Two hundred prostitutes protested peacefully in Phnom Penh. They said they had been unlawfully detained, and then beaten and raped by guards at the rehabilitation center where they were held. I quote from the AP article

"Some of them (the sex workers) were beaten and gang raped by the center guards, and most of the time they did not use condoms," said Chan Dina, a 31-year-old prostitute and member of the Cambodian Prostitute Union, a sex workers' advocacy group.

"Pich Sokchea urged the government to end the crackdown because it was affecting the livelihood of sex workers, many of whom were forced into the profession by poverty and debts. "We are people who sacrifice everything for the sake of our families and for our livelihood."

"Police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, the Interior Ministry's spokesman, dismissed claims that police committed violence against sex workers and said none was mistreated in the crackdown. He defended the crackdown, calling sex work unacceptable in Cambodia."

The Interior Ministry's spokesman comment epitomises the hypocrisy that exists in this country. Publicly, Khmer officials and society condemn the sex trade, but privately, many of them engage in it, visiting prostitutes, taking on mistresses (make no mistake- this is also sex trade) and even making money from it.

From a BBC programme: "A few months ago, another foreign group working to protect children from the sex industry organised a raid on a brothel. It turned out the place was owned by a particularly powerful policeman."

Human rights groups estimate that out of as many as 100,000 prostitutes in Cambodia, one third are underage (younger than 18).

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