Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Children for sale, children to buy (Pros' story...)

Children for sale, children to buy (Pros' story...)

Children for sale, children to buy (Pros' story...)

A bare-chested boy clutching a toy cap gun runs around with his friends outside

a glitzy Phnom Penh nightclub. Just a kid at play - waiting for someone to

beckon him over and inquire: "Go sleep?"

It's 11pm and the boy, who gives

the name Pros and says he's 12 but looks older, is ready for business.

It

might be a brief encounter in a nearby street for a few thousand riels. Or the

start of a longer liaison, with the prospect of a place to sleep and food and

toys - like the cap gun in his hand, a present from a Filipino man he lived

with. Pros has done it all.

At this nightclub, not everybody comes for

the alcohol, music or prostitutes inside. The band of children who gather in its

car park are the attraction for some - often foreign - men.

"Every night

I just wait to see if there will be foreigners coming to look for us," says

Pros.

"I have slept with the foreigners a few times. I get 3000 or 4000

riels.

"Sometimes they come on bicycles and take me, as well as my other

friends, to sleep with them."

Pros says he first "went to sleep" with a

foreigner a few years ago soon after he began living on the streets.

"A

foreigner asked me to go and live with him. I didn't know he wanted to sleep

with me.

"I cried. It hurt. I was bleeding," he says of the experience.

There was a bonus though - the foreigner, apparently new to the game

too, paid him $20, a fortune to a street kid such as Pros.

The boy has

since learned that the going rate is far less, but he still regularly sells

himself for sex. He dislikes the oral and anal sex the foreigners want but "I

have no money".

What Pros really wants is not those customers who ask him

to just "go sleep" with them, but those who take him to live with

them.

For three months until recently he was living with a Filipino man

at a Phnom Penh hotel.

He says it was outside the nightclub that he met

the man, who gave him money to go and buy cigarettes for him.

Pros says

he liked living with the man, because he got 5000 riels a day, food, clothes and

toys. Asked if the cap gun was a present from the man, he nods and says: "Sa buy

" (happy).

He says he slept in the same bed with the man, but they did

not have sex.

That may or may not be true, but child care workers who

have befriended Pros to try to get him to give up the sex trade have few doubts

he is abused sexually.

They tell harrowing stories of finding the boy in

alleyways after clearly having had sex with customers. The number of men he has

spoken of living with at various times is close to 20, they say.

Pros

says both his parents are dead but that too is not the truth. His father died

when he was young, and his destitute mother now lives on the streets.

He

is well on the path to a similar life, but one in which his earnings - based

upon his fading youthfulness and 'innocence' - are destined to dry

up.

"The foreigners like the other kids more than me," he says. "They

like the smaller boys. For those they love the most, they will give them 5000

riels."

His Filipino benefactor, meanwhile, recently left, telling him he

was leaving the country. Pros is again bedding down on grimy streets, hoping for

a new patron.

As a Mail on Sunday reporter gets up to leave, after

interviewing him via a Khmer translator, Pros delivers a fluent sentence of

English: "Take me home to live with you?"

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