25 DEC 2008, PHNOM PENH (AFP):The reporter interviewed one prostitute, Chantha, who said there was nothing else she could do in Cambodia but become a prostitute.
The Cambodian government began prosecuting a new "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" in February after years of pressure from the United States to clamp down on sex trafficking.
Since then, authorities have conducted brothel raids and street sweeps, but rights groups complain the new law has in many ways worsened the exploitation of women.
"The law allows police of all levels to arrest and punish sex workers," said Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights group Licadho.
"The sex workers are arrested to police stations and rehabilitation centres and then they are abused."
"If you don't even have a dollar in your pocket to buy rice, how can you bear looking at your starving relatives?" she said.I once spoke to a young Cambodian prostitute who told me she'd rather die of AIDS tomorrow than of starvation today.
"You do whatever to survive, until you start to realize the consequence of your deeds."
Chanta, in her early twenties, was working in a small red-light district west of the capital Phnom Penh several months ago when she was arrested under Cambodia's new sex-trafficking law.
Police nabbed her in a raid and charged her with publicly soliciting sex, fining her nearly two dollars. Then, Chanta claims, the arresting officers gang raped and beat her for six days in detention.
Bruises covered her body, but none of her assailants were brought to court, she said.
And a Merry Christmas to you too.