W HILE Ieng Sary has finally made his way to Phnom Penh, some of the sordid perils
of modern Cambodia are making their way to his town of Pailin.
Despite the Pailin leadership's best efforts to shield its citizenry from the less
wholesome elements of Cambodian society, prostitutes have managed to infiltrate the
Since opening up their area to the outside world, breakaway KR leaders have gone
to great lengths to show journalists that it is morally superior to the rest of the
country. Loudspeaker announcements every morning used to remind newcomers that "stealing,
prostitution, gambling, exploitation of workers and begging" were not permitted.
When a "Dancing Restaurant" opened early this year in Phnom Malai, a mob
of armed and angry women led by commander Sok Pheap's wife stormed the establishment
and forced it to close. "I am very opposed to prostitution and even if a few
prostitutes make their way here I will chase them away," she said at the time.
Ieng Sary said last March that he did not allow prostitution, but admitted that it
was a matter of time before they would come. "I don't know how long we can keep
them out," he said. "In the Cambodian Constitution there is no law against
Now, the movement appears to have lightened its strident approach towards the world's
oldest profession. "The ones who make the rules are the same ones who can afford
taxi girls," said a mid-ranking cadre who declined to be identified. "It
is not official. It all depends on the situation. We have no rule now, so it is allowed."
Most of the prostitutes reportedly come from Battambang and Banteay Meanchey. One
place they do not hail from is Vietnam. "I can assure you that there are no
Vietnamese, male or female, in this area," the cadre chuckled.
Some of the women come from as far away as Phnom Penh.
"I worked in a brothel in the slums near the building blocks off Sothearos Blvd."
a young but weathered prostitute recalled. "I was afraid of the situation after
the fighting in July and I wasn't making any money. I decided to take a risk and
come to Pailin."
She said that she was afraid of sleeping with soldiers from one of the most secretive
guerrilla movements in the world. "I haven't slept with a Khmer Rouge soldier
yet." She said that she charges about $7 for sex and about $15 for the night.
"They don't have the money."
The women work in several brothels in the city under the watchful eyes of the former
Khmer Rouge security apparatus.
"At first, we pretended this was a guest house and only had one taxi girl downstairs,"
said a pimp who moved from Battambang to Pailin. "I was afraid of Ee Chhean
at first, but now we can make business more openly. There are a lot of brothels here
He complains about the military policemen who frequently raid his brothel and make
off with the women. As he does, an MP comes in and leaves with a free carton of 555
cigarettes. "They say that they are taking them to go to sing Karaoke, but they
keep them all night and do not pay," he said.
"When I turn down their requests, they write my name down and question me. Now
I write down their names - I have a list!" he warns. "One day I will present
it to the Pailin governor and sue the city for damages."