Sam Rainsy and Cambodian Child Prostitution
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd October, 2010
The shocking reality of child prostitution in Cambodia today was the focus of a fringe meeting at the recent ELDR Congress in Helsinki, at which the country’s Leader of the Opposition, Sam Rainsy, was a guest of honour. A mortifying film was shown, which included interviews with current and former child prostitutes — mostly girls, but one boy — as well as some details of how members of Sam Rainsy’s party (along with some extremely brave local women) have been trying to help rehabilitate them and bring some of the abusive brothel owners and clients to justice. That is a horrendously difficult task in a country in which the police and the courts are susceptible to bribery and Sam Rainsy’s party has seen over 50 of its activists assassinated. Sam himself is currently having to live in exile in Paris, as he has been sentenced to 10 years in prison (for perfectly legitimate political activity), which the Cambodian courts say would be added to a previous two-year conviction if he were to return to Pnomh Penh. The most chilling parts of the child prostitution film dealt with the mothers who effectively sold their daughters into prostitution. One was so traumatised by what had happened to her and her family during the murderous years of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge that she said she would do it again. There are several international NGOs working to curb sex tourism involving minors in South East Asia, and several European governments have passed laws making it possible to charge their nationals who abuse children while in Cambodia. But as was underlined by the film, the vast majority of the brothels’ clients, sometimes paying a lot of money to take a young girl’s virginity, were locals, many of them powerful and viscious enough to be untouchable by justice.