A month after police ordered the closure of the notorious Svay Pak brothel community in Russei Keo district, dozens of brothels remained open Wednesday, disguised as coffee shops.
“I don’t care about the government’s ban or about local police,” said a 16-year-old Vietnamese girl, who did not want to be named. “We need money; customers need their physical feeling too.”
The worker said she often opens her door wide to attract customers except when police pay her a visit, at which time she pays them to continue working.
Although Russei Keo district Police Chief Ly Lay said last month that Municipal Police Chief Suon Chheangly ordered the closing of the community’s 14 major brothels, a 34-year-old motorcycle taxi driver who is also a pimp said Wednesday that dozens of young girls were available nearby.
“I get some bribes from those young girls when I bring customers from anywhere to them,” he said.
A Frenchman who frequents Svay Pak also said the police crackdown had done little to deter him from visiting his favorite girls.
“I thought I had the right to have sex with anybody I wanted,” the 42-year-old French tourist said, sitting at a table outside one brothel.
After the brothels were closed in January, local officials and health workers reported that many of the hundreds of prostitutes working at Svay Pak had returned to their homes in Vietnam or moved to massage parlors in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
But local officials and neighbors reported on Wednesday that several young prostitutes were still living in the community. Many had simply moved to different houses, they said.
Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua said on Wednesday that she recognizes Svay Pak is still alive and well.
“Svay Pak hasn’t shut down 100 percent. Many brothels are still open with many foreign guests,” she said.
Mu Sochua added that her ministry was not involved with the brothel closures and expressed concern that the child sex trade was still in operation.
“It is not as simple as closing down Svay Pak. We need good will and a coordinated effort,” Mu Sochua said, explaining that the support of other ministries and NGOs was crucial to stopping the sex trade, a draw for many tourists.
A local police officer sitting outside a brothel with a gun in his lap refrained from commenting on his posting to Svay Pak commune.
Russei Keo district police also were not available for comment Wednesday.