Svay PakFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Svay Pak is an ethnically Vietnamese village located in the Russey Keo District of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Svay Pak is also known as Kilometre 11 or K11. It is internationally infamous for its collection of shanties, brothels, and karaoke bars that exploit not only young Vietnamese and Cambodian women but also children as young as five. Despite claims that child prostitution has been shut down in Svay Pak, Dateline NBC has made several trips there as in the 2000s and has proved that child prostitution is still rampant in Svay Pak, reports include footage of alleged child prostitutes. The story resulted in an undercover sting and several arrests but many pimps did not cooperate with undercover cops and the Svay Pak brothels still exist.
Most of the sex workers in Svay Pak are not Cambodian but instead are Vietnamese. The young adults that work in Svay Pak came there along established migration routes from southern provinces in Vietnam. Despite tensions between the Vietnamese and Khmer, Vietnamese sex workers are popular in Cambodia because of stereotypes that paint them as sexually adventurous, uninhibited, as well as worthy of less respect than Cambodian women.
Almost all of the Vietnamese sex workers had heard of Svay Pak before their departure from Vietnam. Most received information about Svay Pak from friends, relatives, and other community members and spoke of former sex workers who came back financially successful and resumed a normal life. Going to Svay Pak clearly implied engaging in sex work although most women disguised this fact in order to save their reputation. This allowed them to explore options, discuss work conditions and receive advice from former sex workers without "losing face" in their community. For the most part information passed back to Vietnam from Sray Pak consisted of the positive aspects of working as a sex worker. Some women feel that those descriptions did not accurately reflect the real life of a sex worker in Sray Pak but they too indicate they would paint a rosy picture of Sray Pak in order to appear more successful.
Many Vietnamese workers in Sray Pak shared a background in rural poverty which pressured them to move to Sray Pak for economic reasons. Some women deceive their parents in order to work in the sex trade for fear of parental intervention. Others underwent pressure from family members in severe poverty, which drove them to push their daughters into sex work. Still there are those who were deceived into working at Sray Pak. Women are promised work as a waitress or a maid in Cambodia but are dropped off at a brothel. Upon arrival the women are essentially forced to work as sex workers in order to pay for the transportation costs as well as living costs. After payment of their debts most women decide to return to their families and resume a normal life but there are some who see the work as a path to being financially independent and continue working.
The greatest threat to Sray Pak sex workers were persecution and assault by police. Brothels paid monthly protection fees to the local police but this did not protect them from police harassment, refusal to pay for sex, and rape from roving military police. In addition Phnom Penh police occasionally conducted crackdowns on raids in order to clean up Cambodia’s international reputation. These crackdowns frequently included forced “rescues” organized by local or international NGOs working to "save" sex workers from further exploitation. Although these rescue missions have only recently started targeting establishments with children as sex workers, in the past raids were conducted indiscriminately. This precipitated fear and chaos as workers attempted to avoid arrest. These police raids and NGO "rescue" missions had the added effect of forcing the sex workers to bribe in order to be released from custody thereby increasing their debt. Also the heavy police presence at times scared off customers depriving women of regular work and reducing their weekly incomes.
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