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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - After bust, cosmetics shops under scrutiny

After bust, cosmetics shops under scrutiny

Less than a week after the arrest of alleged beauty parlour madam Chan Sreynuch, military police say they are taking a closer look at a number of hair salons and beauty shops in Phnom Penh suspected of being involved in human trafficking and prostitution.

According to General Sao Sokha, commander of National Military Police and deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, salons and cosmetics stores are not uncommon fronts for prostitution and trafficking rings.

He told the Post yesterday  military police were “working on investigations into a number of luxury coiffure and beauty shops”.

Sokha maintained that Sreynuch’s Mikasa Coiffure and Beauty Shop – which was raided last week for allegedly housing a high-end prostitution ring – was just the tip of the iceberg, and that many shops like it had secretly provided sex services for rich customers.

He declined to give any details about the suspected salons, saying that doing so might tip off the suspects. 

According to military police, Sreynuch recruited young women – often aspiring singers or karaoke video stars – and arranged for them to serve as high-priced escorts for wealthy businessmen and even government officials.

“Their activities really affected our Cambodian culture and the country’s reputation,” Sokha said.

But Patrick Stayton, Cambodian field office director for the anti-sexual exploitation NGO International Justice Mission, said that going after establishments like the intermediary front Sreynuch is accused of running would have little effect on the largely unchecked, non-establishment-based sex trade.

Doing that, he said, would call for more sophisticated investigations that have been frustrated by a “lack of will, lack of resources, lack of capacity [and] lack of interest”.

Stayton also noted that police are forbidden from posing as customers in investigations of sex traffickers.

“If you’re not willing to let your police do that, you’ve given up,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at
With assistance from Stuart White



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