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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Village being rebuilt a month after big blaze

Village being rebuilt a month after big blaze

S VAY PAK commune, the infamous and popular "Kilometer 11" village consisting

mainly of brothels, is being rebuilt "better" - though not necessarily bigger -

after a fire virtually destroyed the place on Aug 20.

Many home owners

have taken what advantage they could of the fire to build concrete houses with

tin roofs, replacing the wooden cottages they once owned.

However, other

families were still living under donated plastic tents, unable to find any money

to rebuild their homes.

Many builders are now at the Svay Pak site,

working with brick and concrete; before the fire there were only six concrete

buildings in the village - now, almost all the buildings will be

concrete.

Village head Men Saron has called for wider roads and sewers to

be constructed.

Saron said that 300 houses were destroyed, and in their

place 230 were being rebuilt to be used as coffee and karaoke shops, brothels

and homes.

Van Thong, 46, a Vietnamese brothel owner, said that he had

already spent nearly $6,000 of his own cash for a new two-story building which

would be finished next month.

The final cost would be around $10,000, he

said - the balance coming from relatives, friends and money-lenders, at 10

percent interest.

There is no such thing as insurance for these owners.

Furniture and clothes have to all be re-bought.

Thong - who said he

regretted the fire, though he wanted to get quickly back into what he considered

was a good business - had obtained some emergency relief, like plastic sheets

and rice, from some NGOs. He didn't know which NGOs had helped.

Thong

said he was losing about 20,000 to 40,000 riels ($ 8-$16) a day from his "few"

prostitutes, and his Karaoke and drinks bar. Most of his customers - including

foreigners - came from Phnom Penh.

He said: "Here we had pretty, young

and new girls coming to a quiet place, far from their families' eyes."

He

said he was optimistic that Svay Pak would regain its popularity, and that it

would be "business as normal" within the next few months.

Village chief

Saron said that some of the prositutes were helping the brothel owners

reconstruct their houses.

A Vietnamese sex worker, who refused to be

named, said that she didn't want to work at another brothel in Phnom Penh, but

rather prefered to help her boss build again.

"I don't know where to go;

and this is my work to help my owner for food," she said.

Svay Pak burned

due to a faulty air-conditioner, but other villagers blamed a group of drunken

men starting the fire.

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