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.
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
Village head Men Saron has called for wider roads and sewers to
Saron said that 300 houses were destroyed, and in their
place 230 were being rebuilt to be used as coffee and karaoke shops, brothels
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 $10,000, he
said - the balance coming from relatives, friends and money-lenders, at 10
There is no such thing as insurance for these owners.
Furniture and clothes have to all be re-bought.
Thong - who said he
regretted the fire, though he wanted to get quickly back into what he considered
was a good business - had obtained some emergency relief, like plastic sheets
and rice, from some NGOs. He didn't know which NGOs had helped.
said he was losing about 20,000 to 40,000 riels ($ 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."
said he was optimistic that Svay Pak would regain its popularity, and that it
would be "business as normal" within the next few months.
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.