PRIME Minister Hun Sen has urged police to continue a series of raids on karaoke bars and other venues believed to be havens of prostitution, and has also warned that any government officials swept up in the raids would see their faces broadcast on television.
Speaking at the National Institute of Education on Friday, Hun Sen said the raids on karaoke bars, massage parlours, night clubs, brothels and cafes were necessary to crack down on vice.
“Any government officials who go to karaoke bars, please be careful of handcuffs,” he said. “I tell you, your arrest will not be tolerated. When arrested, ministers, secretaries of state, undersecretaries of state, provincial governors or deputy ones, officials at all levels must have their faces shown on TV.”
In a speech earlier this month, right as the recent round of raids was getting under way, Hun Sen lashed out at officials who he said had undermined efforts to target “human trafficking”. In the same speech, he declared that the government would redouble its attempts to eliminate human trafficking, drug use, gambling and prostitution.
Those who advocate on behalf of sex workers have expressed concern that the raids are sending a marginalised group further underground and possibly hindering HIV-prevention efforts. A local NGO reported earlier this month that the raids had seen at least 280 sex workers lose their jobs, including 85 who subsequently disappeared or fled.
But Hun Sen on Friday said the raids should continue.
“Do not just do like a heavy rain, and then finish,” he said. “You must continue cracking down on these operations like drizzling rain that doesn’t stop.”
Kirt Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, said police in all provinces were carrying out Hun Sen’s recommendations.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said he supported the raids, and agreed that officials should not be spared.
“If the authorities find them committing wrongdoing and conspire to commit corruption with them, then the measure will be nonsense,” he said.