Prostitutes Unwelcome in New Settlement

About 450 sex workers who re­located to a new settlement outside the city after their squatter area off Sotheros Boulevard burned down in May have been told they must find some place else to work.

“They can go anywhere else suit­able,” said Mann Chheoun, the cabinet’s municipal chief. He said the area was designed “for the poor to start a new life,” but the prostitutes’ presence was an offense to their honor. “Their sexy clothes contrast to the new set­tlers,” he said.

Over half the resettled pro­sti­tutes have moved to other areas, like Beung Salang, Chak Angre, Tuol Kok or Tra­louk Bek. Those who stayed in the undamaged, legal buil­d­ings of the Bas­sac area  have to pay double rent due to increased demand from oth­ers left homeless by the fire.

Meas Chanthan, education sup­­­porter for the Urban Sector Group said “They can’t go far away because they are ‘number three’ or ‘number four’ girls,” re­fer­­ring to a scale of experience com­­monly used in the prostitution business. “Their clients would go far for a fresh girl, or at least for a ‘number two,’” he said.

Brothel owners, most of whom owned their Bassac property, are al­­so moving to the relocation area, 17 km from Phnom Penh. They, too, are un­cer­­tain about fu­ture business. “My girls are crying, most still owe me, and I just give them about $12 to get home to their fam­ilies,” said Srey Pech, 31, a ma­­ma­san from the area. She is due to move this week. Asked about her plans for her business, she replied, “I don’t know yet.”

Most prostitutes have little choice about their jobs, said Dy Ra­tha, director of In­dravedi, an NGO that runs a safe sex program in the Bassac area. “They just don’t know what else to do,” she said.



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