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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The silent, sleepless struggle of two young men to be seen in the dark

The silent, sleepless struggle of two young men to be seen in the dark

Ngo Menghourng tells the stories of young men who  have turned to prostitution to keep themselves afloat.

It was about 11pm and Sok Tha, the nickname of a university student of the night, was sitting on a stool alone along Vietnam and Khmer garden, awaiting his clients. Sok Tha has been working as a male prostitute for two years while he has been studying accountancy at the Royal University of Law and Economic.

Every night Sok Tha, a burly and tall guy, comes to Vietnam and Khmer garden to find clients, both foreigners and Khmer, and if he finds one he stays no longer.

He said he worked as a prostitute to finance his studies and daily necessities

“I think working as a sex worker is the best choice for me since I am jobless,” he said. “I can earn much more money than at other jobs,” he said.

He charges US$20 to $30 for foreigners and $10 for Khmers. He does not prefer men, but unfortunately for him all of his customers are male.

“I can sell sex to foreigners because I can speak English and I can communicate with them,” he said.

Most of his customers are foreigners.

This raises concerns that men who have sex for money risk HIV/AIDS infection.

He has to do “everything to satisfy my customers”, but always insists on the use of condoms. He performs both anal and oral sex for his customers.

“Before I go with my clients, we have to agree on condom use,” he said. “If they ask to have sex without condoms, I refuse no matter how much they offer,” he said.

Sok Tha has never let his friends know about his work.

And he has never had a blood test.

“I don’t want to go a clinic to do a blood test for the HIV/AIDS virus because I am afraid of the result,” he said.

Kun Sopon, 23, a security guard, said that he was a male prostitute in 2008 in Svay Raing province.

He said that before he worked as a goldsmith at Phsar Svay Riang where his boss was Sun Mao, 43. Kun Sopon became a sex worker because of his liking for money and jewelry.

“My boss loved me and wanted to have sex with me although he has a wife with three children”, he said. “I agreed with him because he gave me money and promised to buy jewelry for me.”

He said having sex with his boss made him feel angry but the money was too much of a lure. He received between $10 and $20 for each session with his boss.

“I worked as a sex worker because I wanted to earn more money to add on my salary as a goldsmith,” he said.

And Kun Sopon never used condoms during this period.

“I was not afraid of HIV/AIDs because it was just oral sex only,” he said. “I had never known about HIV/ AIDS because I had never listened to radio, or watched TV and I did not care about HIV/AIDS.”

Leng Monyneath, a coordinator of MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) Chak Tukmuk network said that according to National AIDS Authority’s third-quarter meeting report in 2009), there were 21,327 MSM collected from 10 places around the country and there were 8,300 MSM in Phnom Penh.

Plus a lot of transvestites were found to be working as prostitutes.

He said male prostitutes were most at risk from HIV/AIDS infection because they had so many partners.

He claimed that MSM become male prostitutes because of poverty, low education, and discrimination. Most of them always sell sex at parks, Wat Phnom, bars, saunas, and massage parlours.

“We want to stop them from working as sex workers, but we cannot solve their daily life problems,” he said. “If we can solve their needs for daily life, we can also can stop them from working as male prostitutes.”

Touch Naroth, Phnom Penh’s police chief, said the capital had to ban all people who “harmed the city’s beauty”.

“We collect all kinds of people such sex workers, scavengers, beggars, gangsters, and street children in order to educate them and to stop making the cities become disgusting,” he said.

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