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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vice trade undaunted by crackdown

Vice trade undaunted by crackdown

B ROTHEL owners and prostitutes say they are unlikely to be affected by the Phnom Penh Municipality (PPM) moves to eliminate the trade.

The PPM received a survey in July that there were 418 brothels and 1,444 prostitutes in the city. The statistics were collected by the Inspection Department of Social Work and Veteran Affairs (IDSWVA).

Reacting to the survey PPM Mayor Chhim Seakleng announced in a signed letter: "The activity of prostitution is banned because it badly affects the national tradition and customs, causes bad social order and provokes catastrophe for the society in the future."

The July 22 announcement said: "The governors of districts are in charge of informing brothel owners to stop their business within 30 days of this decision.

"The Chief of the PPM Cabinet, municipal police, the Chief of IDSWVA and district governors are given the task of carrying out this decision."

The PPM decision does not seem to frighten or worry the prostitutes and brothel owners. Instead they say they are happily awaiting the closing date [Aug 22].

Thy, a 24-year-old prostitute who was born in Takeo, said: "I really am not angry with the government. I don't mind if they close the brothels, I am actually very glad because I am not satisfied either with seeing a dirty society. I hope after the closure there will be good social order.

Thy lives in 'The Building', a big long complex filled with brothels and destitute families 200 meters east of the Independence Monument.

A co-worker of Thy's from Prey Veng said she thought the government would send the prostitutes they find working after Aug 22 to Koh Kor (Kor Island), Kandal province.

She said during the former SOC regime prostitutes were arrested and sent to this collection area where they received training in alternative professions.

Both prostitutes said: "We have been here for nearly five years. We are waiting for the arrival of the closing date and then we will go back to our homelands and do farming and we will use our savings to do business."

Both girls said they decided to become prostitutes because they had no money to start-up businesses.

Thy said: "It costs 10,000 riel for one act of sexual intercourse, and $20 for one night of sexual intercourse in 'The Building'."

A prostitute in Tuol Kork said: "My homeland is Koh Krabey, Kandal province. I was a fishmonger before becoming a prostitute. I have no parents or brothers and sister. I was deceived and sold. Afterwards I became a prostitute.

"After the closing date I will start selling clay soup [ soup with vegetables, noodles and meat boiled in a clay pot]. I am not angry with the government."

Forty-eight-year-old brothel owner Seang Kol from Khan Toul Kork said: "I am very happy to hear the government wants to obstruct prostitution because currently there are a great many prostitutes.

"I do not want to continue running this business because I do not earn much money, the income is irregular, sometimes we get no customers.

"We get more customers at night than during the day and most of them are quite old and soldiers.

"I don't have any permanent prostitutes in my house, they just come and rent part of my house for a while and work as prostitutes and then go elsewhere. Sometimes I have no prostitutes staying in my house."

A female brothel owner at Tuol Kork said: "I fear being sentenced by the court and maybe sent to jail if I stay open, but I do not believe the government can enforce measures to stop prostitution.

"Some rich countries in the world still have prostitution so how can governments in poor countries stop it?"

Other people also do not believe the government is strong enough to subdue prostitution.

Another female brothel owner said: "We cannot eliminate prostitution because most women voluntarily become prostitutes. They are very poor. They need money to feed themselves and they cannot find other jobs.

"If the brothels are forced to close the prostitutes can simply make appointments with their regular customers to have sex in a secret place.

"The government should not close down brothels, rather they should set up sanitary locations with good medical care and proper social order.

"What is the future for prostitutes and what is going to happen to them if we close down the brothel? Now I am managing a budget for my girls so they can have some money to spend when they return home. I will save $45 for each of them and pay it to them when they decide to return home."

Some people told the Post when the government closes the brothels the prostitutes will be happier because they will be able to increase the price of sex they arrange with clients in secret places.

A source in the IDSWVA said: "In a committee meeting on Aids at the Ministry of Health on July 29 the police presented a report.

"The report said prostitutes were working in the cafes, restaurants, canteens, motels, hotels, renting houses, and nightclubs."

One man who usually goes to several night clubs said: "Most escort girls [women who men pay for company] in nightclubs were also prostitutes because customers could generally persuade them to have all-night sexual relations."

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