Sex tourism, gays, western perversion – what is this story, and these arrests, actually about? No mention is made of any trafficking accusation in this report of a police raid on a brothel in Cambodia – just the cop’s satisfaction at having spent a month investigating a place where people pay for sex. The rather ridiculous salacious slant would have us believe that this brothel is different because gays, lesbians, old ladies and foreigners use it. Well! Presumably the most special customer is a non-young non-Cambodian woman who likes women? Is this a category the police are afraid of? Are we meant to read between the lines that anyone employed in this brothel must have been trafficked and forced (are old-fashioned heterosexist brothels better, then?
It is old news that the US imperialist Trafficking in Persons report has caused Cambodia to institute legislation that has police persecuting sex businesses on principle. This is merely an early stage of the movement that now has a new name: End Demand, which can be followed by several phrases: sometimes we hear End Demand for Sex Trafficking, and sometimes End Demand for Commercial Sex Exploitation, and then there is End Demand for Modern-Day Slavery. All are semantically strange, since the demand these campaigners don’t like is a demand to pay for sex. The demand isn’t for the process – traffiicking, slavery or exploitation. I wonder why the whiz-kid business consultants didn’t make sure the slogan was clearer.
Perhaps there was a special frisson in the fact that a guesthouse has become a brothel, although the report also doesn’t explain what the evidence for that is, either. Presence of sex workers in the building? Manager shows guests an album with pictures of possible escorts? Or is there something noteworthy in the fact that the business is the type associated with alternative-style travel, less luxe, more home-like, cheaper?
Note that all this surveillance for a whole month netted them 14 people, only 3 of whom can be charged with anything – the clients and workers they don’t know what to do with.
Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, 27 February 2011, Phnom Penh Post
Anti-human trafficking officials last week cracked down on a guesthouse in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district that offered sexual services for a select clientele. Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office at the Ministry of Interior, said a raid of the guesthouse-turned-brothel in Veal Vong commune netted a total of 14 arrests, including the guesthouse owner, two accomplices and 11 sex workers, on Saturday. “We have been investigating this house for about a month before we took superb action in cracking down on it,” he said. Keo Thea added that the guesthouse offered specific sexual services.
This place is hidden and illegal and provides sexual services for [gay] men, lesbians, old ladies and foreign people in Phnom Penh.
He said police research had uncovered that the guesthouse had been a popular destination for people seeking its specific services for many years. The detained were being held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Police Department for questioning prior to being sent to provincial court today to face charges, Keo Thea said, though he expressed doubts about the fate of some of the people arrested during Saturday’s raid.
We are now waiting for the order from our superiors about what we should do with these 11 people, who are sexual service providers and those who had come for sex. But for the house owner and the two accomplices, we will send them to court for charges.
–Laura Agustín, the Naked Anthropologist