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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Past Post: The kites are gone but the 'orange girls' stay

Past Post: The kites are gone but the 'orange girls' stay



 Vol. 8, No. 19

September 17, 1999

THE last blushes of sunset have only just drained away from the skies behind the Independence Monument, but already Davi is carefully staking out her patch of grass in the park below.

A trio of leering teenagers on an embarrassingly undersized motor scooter cruise past her, prompting a call that Davi will be making for the rest of the evening. "Come sit down with me... Would you like to have an orange?" Davi says, prompting a chorus of hoots and laughter from the boys.

Davi is just one of Independence Park's approximately 20 krouch chrorbach, or "orange girls", young women who constitute a little-known corner of Phnom Penh's ubiquitous sex trade.

Every evening Davi and the other young women serve a stream of overwhelmingly young male patrons peeled oranges, small talk, and if requested and the price is right, sex.

"I sell oranges ... and anything else they might want," Davi says candidly. "That's what orange girls do... That's why men come here."

With thick layers of white-powder makeup on their faces, Davi and her fellow orange girls wait for their customers on pieces of protective plastic, peeling oranges and smiling coyly at the young men cruising past them on motorbikes.

"Some people just want to eat an orange and talk," says Charya. "Others sit down and want to touch different parts of my body... but they have to pay for that."

At 500 riels an orange, however, the orange girls interviewed by the Post conceded that the price of an orange entitled their customers to fondle them. Those customers wanting sexual intercourse are expected to pay much more.

"We agree on a price and then we go to a nearby guest house," Charya said of a typical encounter with her patrons, adding that on a good night she could sell "between two or three dozen" oranges.

Chanthol Oung, executive director of Cambodia Women Crisis Center (CWCC), said an ongoing, if sporadic, crackdown on brothels was feeding the development of increasing numbers of "freelance" prostitutes. The result, Oung said, was to make prostitution "uncontrollable" as well as encouraging the spread of Aids among sex workers out of reach of traditional health education programs.

A future, however, is what many of the orange girls have little conception of. "What do I want to be doing a year from now?" Davi mused. "I can't think that far ahead." 



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