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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strip club raid poses warning for other 'exploitative' venues: police

Strip club raid poses warning for other 'exploitative' venues: police

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A child walks past the Blue Lagoon Bar, which police and local authorities closed down this week on suspicion that female staff members were being exploited by the owner, who is accused of offering patrons the option of watching the women strip.

Police say a crackdown on a strip club Tuesday is part of a broader effort to eliminate illegal and exploitative venues, but one rights group says officials are enforcing the law selectively.

ASTRIP club near Wat Phnom faces closure after police and local authorities made it the target of a recent crackdown on human trafficking.

Some 15 workers, mostly female, were arrested in the raid on the Blue Lagoon Bar on Tuesday night on suspicion of working in a bar that offers men the option of watching women strip naked, commune Chief Hov Shinith told the Post.

"Our commune police suspected a few months ago that the club had women who would strip naked, so we informed the district governor to crack down on the bar and arrest the 13 women and two men, including the bar owner," he said Wednesday.

"Our commune police regularly check about 15 bars in the area, and they will also face closure if they do not follow the agreement between the bar owners and police on eliminating illegal and exploitative acts," he said.

Hov Shinith said that the bar was being closed temporarily until a final decision from the municipal governor was made.

"We are now preparing documents against the bar owner, Deam Sovanny, for allegedly [running a strip club] and will send them to the Municipal Court on Thursday," said Keo Thea, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection bureau.

"We are going to release the other 13 women and two men after they complete a contract with our police officials saying they will never work like that again because they are victims," he said.

Bribery impeding action
Lim Mony, the women's programme officer for local rights group Adhoc, told the Post Wednesday she welcomed the recent intervention by authorities but said police were still turning a blind eye to places in which they personally benefited.

"There are still a lot of illegal and exploitative activities going on in restaurants, karaoke bars, night clubs and hotels in Phnom Penh that local authorities and government officials are not taking seriously because they profit from them," she said.

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