In the latest move to combat the country’s booming sex tourism industry, police are hoping to enlist as informers the managers of Phnom Penh’s myriad hotels and guest houses.
The Interior Ministry is currently cataloguing addresses, phone numbers and ownership information of guest houses in the capital and will soon ask their managers to sign an agreement of cooperation, Un Sokunthea, chief of the ministry’s anti-human trafficking division, said Wednesday.
“We will gather all the managers to sign an agreement to prohibit sexual activities, otherwise we will shut down the hotel,” Un Sokunthea said.
More than a dozen foreigners have been apprehended on debauchery charges related to sex with minors since September, and Cambodia’s anti-trafficking police have received praise from NGOs and foreign donors, including the US.
Despite those efforts, the sex trade for foreigners is thriving and the infamous Svay Pak brothel district outside of Phnom Penh still operates. Sex tourists continue to visit Cambodia, encouraged by its reputation for neither arresting nor prosecuting offenders.
Many other police initiatives over the past decades to tame the country’s lucrative flesh trade have fizzled out.
Information on Cambodia for potential sex tourists is readily available on the Internet, including detailed tour maps of Svay Pak and chat rooms where tourists rank brothels and bars, and warn others about possible police raids.
The perception of Cambodia as a sexual predators’ playground was highlighted this week by indictments in the US of two travel agents who allegedly advertised sex tours to Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries.
The agents—Douglas Allen, 59, and Norman Barabash, 58—were indicted Monday on criminal charges of promoting prostitution. They both worked for Big Apple Oriental Tours in New York, which was hit with a civil lawsuit on similar charges last year.
According to that suit, the agency promoted a tour package that advertised visits “to the largest and steamiest night life districts on earth,” including areas in Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)