D EATH was the last grim customer for two young prostitutes in the Toul Kork red light
district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh last week.
Desperately shouting for help, the two were consumed by fire.
The young Khmer women died because some say they were locked in their rooms and could
not flee the raging inferno that erupted about 5am.
The fire, which razed ten adjoining houses, followed an argument between the proprietor
and three customers over a bill of about $100.
The women, bought recently from another brothel for $460, had been locked in their
rooms by the brothel master, according to some Khmer papers.
Prostitutes dying in fires, having been locked up by pimps worried they would flee,
is almost becoming commonplace.
A Khmer newspaper reported that one of the customers wore a police uniform.
The man who ran the brothel has disappeared along with the other girls who worked
The fire and deaths did not slow business down much in the red-light district. Fires
are common here; death and disease as well. One of the women who died in the fire
was sick, according to a prostitute across the street.
A day before the fire, a government spokesman said that co-Prime Minister Prince
Norodom Ranariddh now supports a city plan to relocate city brothels to the outskirts
City Governor Chhim Seak Leng was quoted as having said that crackdowns on the brothels
in the city didn't work because "local authorities take money from brothel owners."