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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
highlight that one "special" case to illustrate the point is difficult - there
are just too many.