Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - City nets 19 in raids near wat

City nets 19 in raids near wat

City nets 19 in raids near wat

NGOs decry Wat Phnom sweeps aimed at ending sex work in area.

IN A PAIR of raids near Wat Phnom, police arrested 19 sex workers on Sunday and Monday as part of a campaign to end prostitution in the popular tourist area, drawing criticism from NGOs who said the government's treatment of sex workers would not deter them from re-entering the industry.

The deputy governor of Daun Penh district, Sok Penh Vuth, said local authorities were focusing on preventing prostitution near Wat Phnom because of its value as a tourist site that is of historic importance to the city.

"We will clear prostitution in all areas, but especially at Wat Phnom because it is a place that attracts many foreigners, and it is the birthplace of Phnom Penh," he said. "It is a sacred site, so we do not want improper acts around this place."

Hov Shinith, the Wat Phnom commune chief, said police had arrested 40 sex workers in the commune so far this month.

"We patrol around Wat Phnom every night. We will not allow prostitution," he said.

In addition to the arrests this week, police earlier this month arrested 15 people at Blue Lagoon, a bar located on Street 108 that authorities said offered customers the option of watching women strip naked.

The area around Wat Phnom has been the focus of police sweeps for months. In May, shortly before an ASEAN ministerial meeting, more than 55 people - including a number of sex workers - were picked up by police and brought to government and NGO rehabilitation centres.

Hov Shinith said the 19 suspected sex workers arrested this week were sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Social Affairs.

But Sorn Sophal, the department's director, said they were immediately sent to NGOs because the department did not have the resources needed to help them.

"At the social affairs department, we do not have programmes to train or educate sex workers, so we send them to our partner organisations," he said, though he declined to name the organisations to which the sex workers were sent.

Though Sorn Sophal cited a lack of resources to help arrested sex workers transition to other occupations, San Arun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said the government had recognised the importance of economic empowerment for sex workers.

"We understand that to help them we have to come up with something so they can support themselves," she said. "We have women's centres, in different provinces, to train women to do sewing and weaving."

Women's Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi could not be reached Tuesday, though she told the Post in May that the government planned to allocate funds to training programmes for sex workers.

But several NGO workers said Tuesday that the government had continued to focus on short-term sweeps rather than long-term training, a policy they described as ineffective.

"Authorities are wasting their time and energy cracking down on sex workers, because they will go back to their old careers. They are not trained with new skills," said Lim Mony, the women's programme officer for the local rights group Adhoc.

Sara Bradford, a technical adviser for the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in Cambodia, said the government's policy of temporarily detaining sex workers would not result in a decline in sex trafficking.

"If the Cambodian government wants to see results in their anti-trafficking campaign, they need to stop arbitrarily detaining sex workers under the guise of ending trafficking," she said.

"It is a waste of government and NGO money to detain and 'rehabilitate' consenting adults who choose to be sex workers."

MOST VIEWED

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports

  • CPP sets out five primary strategic goals for 2023-28

    The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) on January 29 concluded its two-day extraordinary congress, setting the party’s priority goals for 2023-2028. The ruling party’s congress was attended by more than 3,000 members from across the Kingdom, including the members of the permanent and central committees,