Was arrested by her own sex customers

by John Einar Sandvand on April 14, 2009

pheakShe was a 17 year old prostitute and most of her customers were police men. When the brothel was raided she was arrested by the same police men who so often had bought sex from her.

Read the story of Pheak – one of thousands of young Cambodian girls who were lured into prostitution.

It was never how she planned her life, of course. The violence between her mother and uncle in their home in Takeo made it impossible for her to stay at home. Pheak was only 14 when she ran away to live with her grandmother.

- I just could not live at home, she explained to me when I met her at Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, where she had been brought after the police raid.

Pheak’s teenage years were spent moving back and forth between her mother’s home and other places. She had no stable network around here and struggled to find out what to do. Domestic violence made it very difficult to stay on with her mother.

Last year, when she was only sixteeen, Pheak moved to Phnom Penh. As she had no place to stay, her cousin suggested that she started working together with her at a brothel. Not imagining any other alternatives, Pheak agreed.

- I had to work every day from 5 PM to 4 AM in the morning, Pheak explained to me.

- We were 4 girls in the brothel and each of us received between 10 and 20 customers every night. The customers usually paid 10.000 riels for sex (USD 2,50).

Pheak explained that most of the customers were police men. Even though prostitution is illegal in Cambodia, many brothels operate under the protection of local police officers. Pheak’s brothel was no exception: The owner had to pay regular bribes to the police in order to be able to operate.

Yet one night the police decided to raid the brothel. Pheak thinks it happened because the owner also had involved himself in selling drugs. Also Pheak had started to abuse drugs at this stage.

- I had fallen asleep when the police came. They woke me up and asked me to come with them. I recognized several of the police men as customers I had sold sex to earlier, Pheak explained.

The girls were taken to center for ex-prostitutes.

- What about the brothel owner?

- Ooh, he had of course been tipped of by the police and was long gone when the raid took place.

Fortunately Pheak was happy with how events turned out. She wanted to continue living at the center for a while to get herself some education.

- My plan is to become a tourist guide in the future, she told me. Finally she was eyeing a future for herself.

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