Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Village of brothels burns to the ground

Village of brothels burns to the ground

Village of brothels burns to the ground

S VAY PAK - the infamous "Regiment 11" or "Kilo 11" brothel-packed village

outside Phnom Penh - virtually burnt to the ground early afternoon of August

20.

According to authorities the fire started by a faulty

air-conditioner. Others in the village blamed a group of drunken men starting a

fire in a brothel for fun, and who later escaped.

About 300 houses were

razed, including a clinic run by Medicines Sans Frontiers for treating sexually

transmitted diseases. More than 260 of the houses destroyed were owned by

Vietnamese.

Prostitutes crowded around the ashes the next day, organizing

open-air shelters and revamping their quarters with plastic

coverings.

They said they were waiting for the brothel owners to

"reassemble" their businesses.

One of them said: "We can't find anywhere

to go and any business to do besides waiting to go back to do the same job.

Vietnamese women have never been hired to work on construction."

Another

said: "I don't know what to do because my income is just on a day-by-day basis."

Still others complained that they escaped with only the clothes they were

wearing.

Hou Samon, deputy chief of the Svay Pak quarter, said the fire

claimed no lives, other than that of one dog.

One local philanthropist -

an electrician, Keo Ly, who has helped victims of big fires many times in the

past - collected 400kg of rice, 200kg of salt and soya sauce from his relatives

to distribute. "I have to help people who are desperately in need, otherwise I

am not satisfied with myself," Keo Ly said.

NGOs Concern and Medicines

Sans Frontiers (MSF) offered help to those most in need.

MSF promised to give

600 plastic sheets, a water tank and promised to rebuild its clinic. Concern was

to give dishware.

Some victims were angry that the fire brigade only

saved houses of those who would pay them.

One woman said: "Fire trucks

arrived before my house was burned down. The drivers asked for money, but I

didn't give them any therefore they passed by."

Rom said one landlord

gave fire fighters two domlung of gold for spraying a house. The owners of 30

houses that stood unburned on one side of the road paid between 30,000 and

100,000 riels for the privilege of having them protected, according to people

interviewed.

However, Samon said fire fighter trucks could not get in to

extinguish the flames because the roads were too narrow. He said that the Sankat

committee was going to discuss letting the home and brothel-owners resettle in

the same area, but first all the roads would have to be widened.

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