Not For Sale: Shining Light into the Sexual Darkness-Cambodia and Thailand part 1: The Facts

7 Apr

Chapter two is a long chapter so I am going to have to break it up into pieces. This post and the next will be about sexual trafficking and what it looks like as an individual caught up in it. Next post will be about how to fight it.

“In June 2006, Cambodia was ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for human trafficking…unfortunately, Cambodia does not stand out as an exception in Southeast Asia. Sex traffickers in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma…” p21

Why does the sex trade thrive in this part of the world (Southeast Asia)?
1) Devastating poverty
2) Armed conflicts
3) Rapid industrialization
4) Exploding population growth

According to the author Southeast Asia is passing through a period of radical transition. “Whenever a society faces seismic changes, the powerless suffer most.” p21

“At least one in three of Camboia’s 15 million people live below the poverty today. Cambodian women, above all, do not get the chance to study formally or learn vocational skills; 41 percent of the country’s adult women are illiterate…Desperate to secure the well-being of their parents or perhaps their own childre, a poor woman can become easy prey for a trafficker…According to one reputable organization that monitors sex trafficking in Thailand, nearly two-thirds of the girls brought into Thai brothels during the past five years came to Burma.” p22

“In many countries of Southeast Asia, over half the population alive today falls under the age of fifteen. Confronted with a scarcity of jobs and food, local communities do not have sufficient resources for their young people. As harsh as it sounds, the young are the first to become expendable.”p23

“The owner of a brothel in Southeast Asia can buy a woman or a child for as little as $50. Virgins fetch anywhere from $500 to as much as $1000. To put those figures in perspective, $1000 corresponds to three and a half times the annual average income in Cambodia.” p24

There is a traditional Cambodian proverb that says, “If Heaven could cry, then Cambodia would never know a drought.”

I just had this feeling that everyone in America, before they buy a house or a car or a boat or a $4.50 coffee should read this chapter. It is a chapter about the unspeakable acts and abuse of sexual trafficking but at the same time full of hope that there are people giving their all to fight it. It is a story about a girl named Srey Neang.

Here are some snap shots from her story:

The old woman bought her not long after she turned seven.
“We paid good money for you!”

Age 14
“After a long morning on the highway, a sign welcomed them to the town of Siem Reap…a few minutes later, he pulled over to park in front of the karaoke club.”

“Oh, come on now, what are you woriied about?” she heard Chuan’s voice behind her. Srey Neang turned and saw his outstretched hand holding a tissue. “You’ll have lots of fun here.”

“She did not need to turn her head to know that Chuan had not entered the room with her. The room did not hold much furniture, save a bed and a small nightstand. The man, in his mid-thirties, appeared to be Cambodian. He uttered a simple, shocking command in the local dialect: “Take off your clothes.”

Srey who entered the night a virgin had to serve for customers. She was now an endentured sex slave.

Shame as a Weapon
“The community’s perception of sexual purity also plays a major role in a young girl’s shame. Once an unmarried girl has lost her virginity, she is considered despoiled. It does not matter if a family member sexually abused her or a stranger raped her.Her family will treat her as blight to its honor, and no ‘respectable’ man will want to marry her. The girl might as well be sold into a life of prositution, for she has lost her innocence. So strikes the club of shame.”

The Police Raid
“Chuan operated the club like a prison. Whenever they were not seeing johns, the girls were kept captive in the apartment atop the club…he forced the women to have sex with ten men each day on average. Most of the johns hailed from Cambodia, though a decent portion came from Thailand, China, and India.”

“a band of uniformed police officers came bursting through the entrance. BY now, all of the girls had spilled out of their bedroos and stood pensively in the front hallway. The officer in charge paced slowly in a circle around them. He used exaggerated gestures to show that he was counting the number of girls present. He then announced, “You are all under arrest for the illegal solicitation of sex.””

“Once at the police station, they placed all the girls in a single holding cell…Nothing much happened over the next twenty-four hours…The following afternoon a guard opened the door of the jail cell and invited only Sreay Neang to accompny him. She assumed that she would get first crack at testifying against Chuan. To her surprise, the guard led her straight out of the police station. There, waiting for her on the sidewalk, stood Chuan.

She turned to run back into the police station, but Chuan grabbed her by the arm. “You’re wasting your time,” he said. “How do you think I got you released? The police are more than happy with their cash bonus.””

A couple observations:
1) Srey started her life as a slave, for all intensive purposes.
2) When her owner became unsatisfied/jealous she was sold for a profit into prostitition
3) Justice cannot stand when power/police are corrupt

If you are new to the book here is a bit on the author:


One Response to “Not For Sale: Shining Light into the Sexual Darkness-Cambodia and Thailand part 1: The Facts”


  1. If heaven could weep... « Details are Sketchy - April 8, 2007

    […] 9th, 2007 A blog titled Midrash recently excerpted a dozen or so relevant paragraphs from David Batstone’s “Shining Light into the Sexual Darkness: Cambodia and […]

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