Police Continue to Clear Sex Workers From Streets in Capital

Amid growing criticism over alleged abuse by police who sweep sex workers from the streets, police said seven more prostitutes were cleared from Wat Phnom on Monday.

Police rounded up the sex workers in Daun Penh district and detained them overnight at the commune police station before sending them to the Social Affairs Ministry for “reeducation,” Un Sam Arth, Wat Phnom commune police chief, said yesterday.

“We wore civilian uniform for collecting the sex workers. If not…they will flee immediately when they see police,” Mr Arth said.

This year police have collected hundreds of sex workers in similar raids to prevent disorder, after which the Social Affairs Ministry transferred them to NGOs, he said, adding that many returned to work as prostitutes.

“Maybe it is because NGOs always release them without providing them with good skills,” he said.

Ly Pisey, technical assistant at group Women’s Network for Unity, said that in the first half of this year about fifty percent of 945 sex workers sent from the ministry to their four centers had been repeatedly arrested.

WNU respects the rights of sex workers and their decisions to leave centers, but police take them to police stations, centers and shelters against their will, she said.

“There is a need to decriminalize the sex industry…. Police waste time and resources” on raids, she said, noting sex work was not a crime and did not threaten security.

Keo Thea, deputy chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking office, said that prostitutes were not criminals but that soliciting in public is banned and disrupts order.


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