Police Take Measures To Keep Boat Racers Out of Brothels

Authorities in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district said this week’s Water Festival has prompted a crackdown on brothels to preserve the city’s image and deter boat racers from them.

A joint venture committee composed of police and district officials has been attempting to rid Tuol Kok of brothels since early 2008, but efforts have been stepped up for the Water Festival, ac­cording to De­­p­uty District Gov­er­nor Sum Rithy.

“The crackdown on brothels during the Water Festival is to [stop] the boat racers from going to them,” he said by phone Tuesday, ad­ding that officials in his district were trying to make the city look good during the three-day holiday.

Police and officials shut down two brothels in Boeng Salang commune Friday, which were still open despite previous attempts to close them, Sum Rithy said, adding that 90 percent of the brothels in three communes in Tuol Kok district have been shut.

Officials in Daun Penh district, however, said the Water Festival would not lead to an increase in brothel closures.

“We just want to eliminate brothels 100 percent out of Daun Penh district because it destroys public order,” said Deputy District Gov­er­nor Pich Socheata.

Almost 40 sex workers, including five rounded up during a Nov 5 raid, have been sent to the Mu­nic­i­pal Social Af­fairs Depart­ment since Daun Penh au­thor­ities began to crack down on bro­thels in May 2008, Pich So­chea­ta said by phone.

Both Sum Rithy and Pich So­chea­ta complained that brothels, once closed, are often turned into cof­fee shops or karaoke bars where sex workers continue to provide services in secret.

The repeated closures of brothels violates the labor rights of sex workers and could increase joblessness and homelessness among them, said Nay Heng, president of Women Network Unity, a sex wor­ker advocacy group.

“Most of them are willing to work this job because they don’t have another choice due to being un­educated and lack of work skills.”

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