CAMBODIAN prostitutes are increasingly being forced into drug addiction by brothel
owners in a effort to make them compliant and dependent, according to human rights
The workers said the main drugs being used are heroin and amphetamines.
The Women's Media Center of Cambodia provided a tape of an interview with a sex worker
whose experience, they say, typifies the problem.
The 20-year-old woman was kidnapped near her home in Takeo and brought to Phnom Penh.
She said that at the brothel she was forced to take a mixture of intravenous heroin
and amphetamine tablets. She said she was threatened with a beating if she refused
to take them.
She said the drug cocktail enabled her to service 30 to 40 men a day.
The CWMC spokeswoman said in the interview that the energizing effects of the amphetamines
and the hypnotic effects of the heroin meant prostitutes would work long hours and
engage in unusual sexual practices.
The commander of the Takeo Gendarmerie, La Lay, said the sex traffickers targeted
two groups of women - the desperately poor or those with emotional problems.
In this case the woman was rescued after her father came to Phnom Penh to look for
her - but it was not the end of the ordeal.
Neighbors said as the woman was leaving the brothel the owner came and told her:
"You have to come back otherwise you will die," referring to the affects
of heroine withdrawal.
The next day as withdrawal took hold, the woman started crying out: "Hot! Hot!
Hot! Give me pills!" then fell writhing on the ground.
She said she had tried to escape once before, but without any support the experience
of withdrawal was overwhelming.
"I ran out one time after I arrived at Psah Domkor, but I come back when the
drug [withdrawal] caused me to suffer" she said with a breaking voice.
Meanwhile it is being left to groups like the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center to
pick up the pieces. They have been providing shelter to women who have escaped from
brothels but still have a drug addiction
One woman at the center, Bopha (not her real name), said she became addicted after
being enticed to Thailand with the promise she would be able to make money selling
Instead, once in the border town of Aranyaprathet she was sold to a brothel where
she was forced to take heroin. She said there were a number of women in the brothel
- Khmer and Vietnamese. All were addicts and none were paid.
Bopha was one of the lucky ones. A client took pity on her and gave her 5000 baht
to run away. She took two other prostitutes with her but she said they died on the
The CWMC said they believe the women died from the effects of drug withdrawal.
Sao Chhoeurth, Technical Manager of the women's protection group Agir Les Femmes
en Situation Précaire (AFESIP), said that about 30 percent of the prostitutes
brought to them were addicts.
He said often when they came into the center they were still feeling the effects
of the drug and once it wore off they wanted to leave.
He said the women could become suicidal if they could not get access to the drugs
and often returned to the brothel to satisfy their cravings.
Chhoeurth does not entirely blame the brothel owners for the problems. He said that
clients have to take responsibility for the industry as does the Government.
"If the Government does not take clear measures, we will lose the human resources
of our future," he said.