Sex Workers’ NGO Funds Locked in Shut Bank

A nongovernmental organization that provides health care to more than 400 sex workers and 200 poor villagers each month has suspended operations be­cause its money is locked inside the now-closed Agriculture and Commercial Bank.

Until the bank’s assets are sorted out, the Indradevi Association cannot pay its 35 staff members. It has shut down most daily activities such as counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases in squatter villages.

“Everything has been destroy­ed,” said Dy Ratha, Indradevi president. “The bank seems to want to kill us.”

The Indradevi Association was formed by a group of professional women in 1992 to protect wo­men’s rights and provide them with health care, education and legal advocacy.

Money to pay for the association’s activities for the next six months was deposited in the Agriculture and Commercial Bank, one of 11 banks shut down in December because they did not meet stricter government standards for solvency.

Government officials have organized a committee to liquidate the bank’s assets, but it is not clear whether the bank will ultimately have enough money to cover its obligations. It is also unclear how long it will take to resolve the bank’s affairs.

The Indradevi Association was one of 30 NGOs caught in a bind when the bank abruptly closed. Another 300 depositors also remain in limbo.

Dy Ratha said she only had enough money in December to pay her 12-member permanent staff—and they received only 10 percent of their salaries.

“I don’t even have the money to pay motos for rides to brothels” in Chroy Ampil in Kandal province, she said.

Sa Um Sophana, a mental health teacher with the NGO, said, “Everything is stopped, and our program has to be suspended. We don’t have money to pay [clients] to attend our classes.”


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