"I was applying for a job," says Sokha, an English teacher in her mid-twenties.
"That's why I went to a plastic surgery clinic to get my nose long and pointed.
Before, I had a short and flat nose. I couldn't even wear
"You know," she says, pointing at a huge picture stuck on
the wall of a Vietnamese plastic surgery clinic showing a very good-looking
Western woman, "I want to be 'same same' her. The same long nose, and why not
the same breast? This operation brought into my life a kind of security I've
never had before."
"Look now," she says, wearing a fake pair of Ray-Ban
sunglasses. "Isn't it beautiful?"
Sokha is one of a growing number of
Cambodians spending plenty of money altering their features by plastic surgery.
Most of the operations are performed in unauthorized, unlicensed and unhygienic
There are no laws governing the surgeries, so local
authorities seem content to turn a blind eye to them.
Vietnamese "doctor" told the Post: "Phnom Penh is turning out to be a better
place for this kind of business than Saigon. The business and profit margins are
better here. The consumer demand is big and creates competition."
clinic has been running for five years and he averages eight appointments a
Thirty percent of his clients are skinny men who want their cheeks
puffed up. The rest include prostitutes and wealthy women who want to please
their husband - nose, breast, eye and stomach jobs, costing between $100 to $200
and generally taking two visits to complete the operation.
acknowledges that he isn't a doctor but his father was one and taught him the
art of modeling a new face. He said his clinic is outfitted with "modern medical
equipment that equals world-class quality at a fraction of Western prices".
But when the Post visited it looked like a basic, though very dusty,
hotel room, with used and dirty sheets, a cupboard filled with Chinese herbal
medicines and an air-conditioner that, he insisted, broke down a few days ago
Doctor Marc Eric Borne, a French physician, practices plastic
surgery in Phnom Penh with a surgeon. His clients are usually Khmer living
"I had in my clinic many patients who came to ask me to remove
the sile that has been inserted by these so-called doctors, because it was too
painful to bear".
"The official statistics leave out many of these small
businesses that operate underground, where they escape being taxed," says a
source close to the Ministry of Health in Phnom Penh.
The source said
that only one physician asked authorization to the Ministry of Health to open a
clinic, but he had to hire a Khmer doctor to perform plastic surgery.
source said that patients are not given any real treatment and are not followed
He added that these clinics are ill-equipped and the government is
reluctant to acknowledge them, but "because of the lack of law, we cannot close
them down. There is a kind of anarchy."
He said Vietnamese and Chinese
"plastic surgeons" were not fully-trained, or had degrees that were not
recognized in Cambodia.
Like the Chinese woman, a so-called doctor who
practices nose, eye-lids and lips operations - ironically, next to the Ministry
In the waiting room, two well-dressed Chinese girls told the
Post that they work along with the surgeon as nurses.
When the surgeon
was asked if she held a medical degree, she proudly displayed a diploma on which
was written in English: "Hair and Beauty course successfully completed in Hong