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Sold to a brothel - too many stories to tell

Sold to a brothel - too many stories to tell

THE story, as it went, was about a young girl who lived in a small village near

Prey Veng. She enjoyed the simple rice-farming life with her family; she went to

school with her friends.

But this year the rice harvest failed. At 15,

she was the oldest of four children and an unmarried virgin. Stricken by lack of

money, her parents packed her a bag with a few clothes and sold her for $80 to a

brothel in Phnom Penh.

The girl's story was true, the Post was assured,

but she could not be found among the shacks of Tuol Kork and

interviewed.

The facts of her case were just too common; the girl could

have been working in any brothel on the strip.

Every prostitute living in

Tuol Kork has a story, usually similar, sometimes much worse. There is probably

not one woman who wants to work there, or enjoys doing so.

A survey being

now being run by an NGO health clinic in Tuol Kork shows that one in three

prostitutes there have been sold into brothels.

The average original

price is between $40 to $60 "but this is the bottom end of the market," NGO

worker Jacqui Dunn says.

Half of the workers have never been to school;

one in five is aged under 18 [the average age is 21]; more than two thirds are

working to feed their children or families or trying to earn enough to get back

home.

Most of them say their families don't know where they are. Without

money, it would be social death for a woman to admit her profession

anyway.

Koh, [as with all prostitutes, she would not use her real name],

was kidnapped by a man who was to have taken her from Kandal to Battambang to

visit her aunt.

She was sold to a brothel and says her family have no

idea where she is, what she is doing, or even if she is still alive. She has

struck up a firm friendship with another worker, but the mutual shield of jokes

and giggles quickly disappears as she talks about her history to Tuol

Kork.

Poh, 26, left Takeo following the failure of the family rice plot,

but she hasn't worked in the 15 days she has been in Tuol Kork.

She was

married and pregnant but lost the sight in one eye from measles. Before

abandoning her, Poh's soldier husband beat her across the back with the yolk

from a cart and she miscarried.

She has sent a note to her mother saying

she was working on a construction site. If she could earn some money, just $4 or

so, she would leave tomorrow. However, she is as yet too ill to

work.

Many of the brothel owners are wary of allowing workers to talk to

media. The original purchase price has got to be recouped by the owners,

therefore many girls can only look forward to food and lodgings while they pay

off their debt at $2 a "trick."

There are some prostitutes who arrive at

Tuol Kork and other red-light areas fully aware of their "conditions of

employment."

One prostitute said her's was a conscious decision based on

the economic need of her family for food, and of her brothers' need for

schooling. Ms Dunn said her story was one, in general, that has not been heard

of for some time.

Most  are either kidnapped, sold or duped into the

work, and cannot leave for either social or economic reasons, or both.

To

highlight that one "special" case to illustrate the point is difficult - there

are just too many.

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