Cambodia Ladyboy Rescue Goes Wrong


Here’s an attempt to help young people selling sex that’s put them in more danger. The article employs well-known rescue keywords.

  • Best Interests: police say they have the best interests of prostitutes in mind
  • Take care of health: and want to take care of their health
  • Protect: and protect them from HIV/AIDS

Now compare those stated goals with what the kids say themselves in the article. The hotel employee’s comment at the end about ‘decent society’ is also a giveaway.

Ladyboys face crackdown

Phnom Penh Post, 29 October 2008

Gay male prostitutes have solicited on Pursat Bridge for a decade, but a police crackdown has forced them into more dangerous parts of town

The ladyboys of Pursat – gay male prostitutes dressed as women – have been banned from soliciting on the notorious Pursat Bridge, their haunt for at least a decade, but provincial police enforcing the ban say they have the best interests of the prostitutes in mind.

“Selling sex is illegal in Cambodia. We are not allowing these prostitutes to conduct business on the bridge anymore because it has a negative impact on residents who live close by,” said Lok Sary, chief of the Pursat provincial police force.

“We also want to take care of the ladyboys’ health and protect them from HIV/Aids.”

Since the police crackdown, the ladyboys have moved their business to the shady gardens surrounding Pursat Lake, particularly a stretch between Pursat Bridge and Speanthmor Garden.

Fresh dangers

But the move has been a difficult one for the more than 50 ladyboys who work in Pursat, according to Srey Lin, 25, who has been a prostitute in the town for two years.

“If we are standing on the Pursat Bridge, it is much safer for us. The police are always nearby, but here we face a lot of problems,” she told the Post. “Sometimes young gangsters come by and mistreat us. They try to steal drugs and money, and sometimes they force us to have sex with them for free.”

Srey Lin works as a hairdresser in the daytime but said she turned to prostitution because she did not earn enough to support herself. She added that most of her clients are older Cambodian men, and that ladyboys usually earn about US$20 a night.

“We work from 8pm until midnight, and when we see the police we all split up and pretend to be visitors,” she said.

“We have to do this job secretly because we are looked down on by the wider community, especially the women, but we conduct our business properly: We only go over to a man if he stops his moto near us. We do not sit or stand on the edge of the road and call out to clients.”

Rotana, an employee at the Phnom Pich Hotel, which faces the bridge, says she is pleased the ladyboys have moved on, viewing them as a threat to decent society.

“I think the police made the right decision moving the ladyboys from Pursat Bridge,” she said.

“This province is unsafe today because of the anarchy of these gay groups. They always used to fight with gangsters on the bridge. Even though police banned them from the bridge, I can still hear them calling out from the gardens and I think police should ban them from there too.”

Klem Sokoun, chief of the Pursat provincial health department, said his office is growing increasingly worried about the spread of HIV/Aids through gay brothels. He said it is conducting research into the brothels and that a crackdown is likely to begin soon.

8 thoughts on “Cambodia Ladyboy Rescue Goes Wrong

  1. Roger

    What is much more worrying is the comment from the chief of the Pursat provincial health department: “increasingly worried about the spread of HIV/Aids through gay brothels”.

    Reply
  2. Laura Agustin

    Yes, Roger, I agree that’s the worst of it. My focus was on the Rescue Industry, which is why I highlighted typical Rescue phrases.
    Best, Laura

    Reply
  3. Marc of Frankfurt

    Ladyboys were called “Mary Anns” when plying their trade around Leicester Square in London more than 100 years ago.
    I learned about this and the Cleveland-Street-Scandal 1889/90 in this (German) book: The sins of sodom – memories of a viktorian hustler

    More on and for Callboys
    http://www.sexworker.at/callboy

    Reply
  4. Shaina

    Re: my last comment – yes, I was thinking that it applied to America as well. I just didn’t know if there was some sort of separation implied by the European focus. Very nice article!

    Reply
  5. laura agustin Post author

    Thanks so much, Shaina! When I began thinking about these things I think I imagined there might be geographical differences, simply because that’s how we’re trained. But it soon was obvious to me that I was hearing the same comments from migrants and sex workers from all over the world.

    Reply
  6. Cyn

    just goes to show it’s the same all over the world. We had nearly the exact same argument/conversation about DC work here last week….

    Reply
  7. Pingback: peripheries » Blog Archive » People on a mission: a common case of misguided intervention

  8. Pingback: Thai Sex Workers: Anti-trafficking Rescues Are Our Biggest Problem | ColdWarfare

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