ONE day in February this year cousins Sreyvy, 17, and Sreypon, 20, (not their real
names) decided to take a walk at the Takmau market. It was a walk that would become
At the market, Sreyvy and Sreypon were approached by a woman named Dar. She said
she was a cook and offered to find the two girls similar jobs paying $40 a month
in Phnom Penh.
Sreyvy and Sreypon accepted and were immediately taken directly to a brothel in Tuol
At first, they were only asked to stay in the brothel overnight. Next morning, they
were told, they would be taken to their new jobs.
"Next day we asked to see Dar. The brothel owner told us that she had taken
$80 for each of us and now we had to stay and work to pay the money back," Sreyvy
Later, the brothel owner brought the girls some new clothes and told them to put
make-up on. When they refused to work as prostitutes, they were locked up in a room.
The clients would enter the room to have sex with the girls, but for two months the
cousins were prevented from leaving the house.
"Even the front door and the back door were always locked," says Sreyvy.
At Khmer New Year in April, Sreypon fell seriously sick with fever and stomach pain.
However the brothel owner still forced her to serve the customers and when she pleaded
with him to let her go back home, he beat her so badly that her nose started to bleed.
The two cousins began to make plans to escape the brothel. They managed to cut a
small hole in the wall, but before they could make it big enough to climb through,
the brothel owner found out and increased the security around the brothel.
A couple of weeks later the police raided the brothel. But the brothel owner had
been warned and had moved all the girls to another house.
In fact, Sreyvy and Sreypon say, the brothel owner was rather well-connected to the
police. His son and his nephew were both police officers, and every day, a policeman
would come around to collect 2000 riel from the brothel.
One day Mama-san couldn't pay the bribe and the police raided the brothel again.
All the girls were taken away to the police station. Sreyvy and Sreypon became hopeful
that they could soon go back home, but eventually they were only taken back to the
"Mama-san said she was very happy to see us again. She had paid $50 to get us
back, so now we had to work that money off too," says Sreyvy.
In the end, the two cousins were sold to two different brothels. Fortunately, by
then they already had a plan. Both girls started to ask their customers for help
and pleaded with them to inform an organization about their situation.
Finally their pleas reached an organization that works with trafficking victims and
involuntary prostitution, and Sreyvy and Sreypon were both rescued from the brothels.
These days they are recovering at a shelter in Phnom Penh. Both girls hope to get
some kind of education and maybe find work as hairdressers or wedding decorators.
But first they have to get over their ordeal in the brothels and the self-recrimination
that tortures both of them.
"It was my own fault that I ended up in that situation. If I had obeyed my family
and listened to their advice, it wouldn't have happened," says Sreypon.
"I would like to say to other girls to please not fall into the same trap as
me. Maybe we didn't have enough to eat before, but at least we were with our families."