That is what we do. That is what people do.
They stay alive for each other.
In other aspects, humanitarian organizations in border areas of Cambodia-Thailand state that illegal immigration of Cambodians into Thailand has increased in recent years due to active human trade strings.
In Siem Reap, there are many ‘girls inns’ (slang refers to brothel), the most famous one is Hollywood Night where customers can sit down for beer and eat in front of huge glass cage inside are sitting in 4 velvet grading rows 40 Vietnamese girls clad in scarce clothes.
A customer can choose any girl he likes to serve him beer or enter massage room with tag price at 7 dollars an hour. These pleasure entertainment zones are open throughout the night and it’s very easy to find a young girl from 5 to 10 dollars only!
The owner of the Hollywood Night is Cambodian Vietnamese. Girls practicing here are some voluntary, some sold; every one has her own story. But they have a common factor that once entering in here, it would be very hard to get out because the control is very tough, even when hired to serve outside of the premise (it’s permitted here, but it’s strictly forbidden in most part of other ‘girls inns’). A girl will be paid from 20 to 30 dollars a month for her numerous times of service or of customers.
20 km from Siem Reap is located a Vietnamese corner on the shore of Ocean-Lake Tonle Sap. The Mekong of thousands of km long, taking source in Tibet, China, streams down through Burma and Laos, flows alongside Thailand- many segments are used to be border lines with Vientiane –and pours into Cambodia, at Phnom Penh because of what only God might know it grows in a branch flowing into Siem Reap; and becomes day by day larger and larger with width at some place reaching up to 50 Km and 150 Km in length; due to this enormous superficies, it is called an ‘inner ocean’ or Ocean-Lake. It is a sweet water area and a colossal container of sweet water fishes provided for Cambodia and South Vietnam.
However Vietnamese over here must suffer of many up and downs in life like their floating dwellings and not few people bear a down fate to the bottom of society and from here not scarce girls are sold into brothels…
Immense like a true ocean, but it’s right here one of the poorest village in Siem Reap with shabby floating houses, fragile and wandering, moving along current monsoon cycles, with assorted business banners hanging above door head: machine repairs, grocery, barber’s, hair dressing etc… They are house-boats of different sizes; some boats are rice retailers, electronics, refreshing drinks etc…
Some houses are anchored fixedly; some tied with loose strings for easy moving. Some have under floor iron fuel containers, neatly closed as floats and pulled by a small motored sampan. Some richer families have bigger house boats, two storied for some, below story is used as residence and business place, the above is for rent for cultural activities, conference or dancing. Any house boat is dotted on their bow with flowers, plant pots, orchids, or any bonsai planters are almost surely Vietnamese.
There is a Catholic church, it floats as the fate of the inhabitants of the ‘floating village’, because perhaps tomorrow, in raising water season, even this river itself would no longer exist, everything become water ocean. House boats will be raised up in water float and wander to some unknown and unforeseen place. The village is no longer a conglomeration packed together and run in length like in here, but dispersed in clusters farther from each other and fades in remote distance.
The float village has more than 300 houses with nearly 2000 people living on small boats, closed in bank to bank. Cambodians and Vietnamese live in inter-mixed spots as a large village with two races co-existing peacefully. Very few people of the whole village know Vietnamese writings; children talk to their parents in Khmer. A female teacher is hired to teach in a ‘school-boat’, it’s a contribution from a European-Vietnamese cooperation. Cambodian language is taught in some school but really few people think to send their children to school, Cambodian or even Vietnamese.
The most part of people over here come from western provinces of South Vietnam knowing not any cause to base on why they’re present at this place; they live as they float or move, some even do not know their natal origin; any concept on village seems vague to them, and on community they have very simple and practical conception that where there could be found neighbors and boating friends they’re a community.
While their parents are merely waterways wandering residents and happened to be here, many Viet children were born on Ocean-Lake; they grew up by fish in Ocean-Lake, drank water of Ocean-Lake; Vietnamese from many generations have been living in floating villages and earn their living by fishing. Most of the children have followed their parents’ backstrokes against currents of Tien and Hau rivers to arrive at this destination.
In seasons of rising waters, vegetation, trees and flora turn into green dense forests on both banks of a small river and a kingdom of abundance of fish schools in eagerness to deliver their eggs. People fish these eggs with nets to help them hatch or even trap fish tots to grow. Some families stay and start living and resettle in here.
Even the local Cambodian families are poor. They make a living by fishing and trading miscellaneous items. Fish of the old days in immense ocean-lake helped the villages flourish, some were even able to afford gold bracelets thank to fish. Now indeed their children and grand children have to live day by day from hand to mouth; and not enough to survive. Therefore, girls, yes, they are going to sell their girls as fish.
What sadness! Encouraged by family, a girl could naively and willingly volunteer to step up this road of sufferings. Please listen to what some girls have to say when asked why they had patiently agreed to engage into this musky life…
‘I have to give up my body to help the family’
‘I didn’t want to do this, but I had to find some money to buy medicine for my hospitalized mom and pay her debt. The debtor comes to my house every day to insult her, I could not bear it, and I have to choose this career to help my mom’.
‘My mom advised me to go into this profession in order to prevent the family would be behind others and feel shameful with neighbors, and to wear many golden bracelets like them’.
Many girls living now in temporary shelters set up by non profit organizations refer to the same explanation:
‘Our parents usually say you’re so useless, why you stay home? Go into brothel and make some money is better!’
A volunteer said:
‘Culture and social habits are some part of this problem. When in Vietnamese culture, a woman shouldn’t be respected and highly valued and when she is regarded as worthless to the family, it would be a natural thing that she could be easily traded and sex abused’.
French writer André Maurois once said:
‘It is not widely accepted hat a Vietnamese courageous, except when he (or she) would be a revolutionary!’
I didn’t see any revolutionary here, but courageous people I did see. They are courageous because they could be attacked by wicked people or revenged at any time. Like the case of Ms Nhung from Canada, the executive director of Voice in Siem Reap; she had to give up her luxury life in Canada to come to this place lacking of most conveniences and dangerous to voluntarily serve years ago.
In Siem Reap where could be found an active Voice office, I had to share a simple meals with Ms Thuy Duong and other volunteers; rode bicycles with Ms Nhung (it’s 18 years I have occasion to use again the pedals) to visit poor ‘Phum’ (village) in which some Vietnamese are living, and hungry and unhealthy children should be concerned and taken care of, trained in prevention of falling back into surrounding traps that are in plenty.
There are some hamlets of Vietnamese abroad; they are rows of shabby houses, covered with different materials such as tin tile, tree leaves, paper… In a word it’s a Vietnamese corner; they have to rent places from Cambodians. With more money, you can have restroom, if with less money, you have to pay extra when you need restroom or bath or laundry.
I was ‘shocked’ to hear about a village with all men and boys and aged people, insisted further I found out that girls just in puberty (from 8 to 15 years old) had to be sold right into brothels by their own parents.
On the Asia stage (a Vietnamese abroad entertainment company) you could see Host Thuy Duong splendidly beautiful, but when returning to her role of a volunteer to carry out her compassion and love and sacrifice under the light of Dalai Lama teachings, she becomes an ordinary person in plain clothes pedaling her bicycle to go back and forth in her voluntary activities.
In addition there are many other female volunteers, among them some were former human trader victims. Actually they have found their orientation; their abusers, I believe- ending in other direction -some how would be punished accordingly to their acts. I don’t know how they could swallow their everyday meals thinking of their evil acts?
In the movie ‘The Hours’ referring to writer Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) said: ‘This is what we do. This is what everybody does. They live for others’.
Women volunteers accept to live in such a condition lacking of material conveniences in Siem Reap to put only one thing in motion to save children from being abused by human traders, ‘they live for others’ indeed… I couldn’t have any other more moving words to praise them by borrow these ones to talk about them.
On 10th October, 2009 Siem Reap headquarters office of Voice was closed by order of Cambodian government, it requests the agency to cease all activities. Proclaimed reasons read that Voice is inclined to do politics by helping political refugee and goes on anti-communism directives (frequent accusations any dictatorship impose on organizations they don’t like). Voice women volunteers were forced to leave Cambodia within 24 hrs.
Host Thuy Duong has to lobby with American Embassy to reopen Voice office. It results that in January 2010, with the intervention of the Embassy in Phnom Penh, permission to reopen its office from the Cambodian government was granted to Voice on condition that Voice must be registered as a NGO under the name of SENHOA instead of Voice. Presently only 3 persons come to Siem Reap (including Ms Nhung) to work for Sen Hoa. All former previous volunteers have to return to their countries of origin.
It should be understood that there had been an invisible black hand behind this decision from the Cambodian government. However it could not be understandable that why the government of Vietnam had not set up an anti human trade office here, its neighboring state, in order to help rescuing children, Dragon’s and Fairy’s offspring, of whom they are often proud and prevent them to ‘labor’ in those local dirty brothels.
Human trade and abuse of women as well as of children in Cambodia are very rude. This country had been classified by US as tier-three country in the list of human rights violation countries because of its fast growth in this vice. John Miller, director of the anti human trade and follow-up agency which reports to US Department of State said they have great concerns on human trafficking on all over the world:
(Quote John Miller, NTY)
And he also stressed:
(Quote J.M., NTY)
Poverty of the mass, increase in unemployment, low wages, poor education, lack of knowledge and information incite many Vietnamese families living in Mekong delta area or in suburbs in Cambodia to sell their daughters into brothels to level their debts or buy things… And the long time traditional concept of mesmerizing female gender such as saying ‘daughter is others’ child’ (woman does belong to outside tribe) make them think daughter trade into brothel would be the same thing as Thuy Kieu (a famous main character in the Tale of Kieu, a well known literature works of Vietnam) had sold herself … to pay ransom for her father! However it’s not reasonable that there wouldn’t be any silk trader to wrongly accuse her grand parents and parents except that they offer their innocent lamb right into tiger’s jaw. According to investigations, nearly half (namely 30-40%) of Vietnamese families in Cambodia had sold at least one of their children to be sex slave. These daughters are usually teens and below (some is only 5) because they’re easily traded and in demand to who are ‘buying virginity’. After that girls have to drag their only life in darkness of brothel hell. Many girls disclosed that they had been afraid for their own life and scared to death when trade was done; some others said they had ‘struggled’ when taken away, but the most part said they had suffered and accepted submissively their fate, obeyed their parents’ will.
Aaron Cohen, in his report on this amazingly destructive crime which happens every day in Cambodia, said:
(Quote Aaron Cohen, NTY)
And after some fact finding trips, he retold:
(Quote Aaron Cohen, NTY)
Cohen disclosed about places where he had conducted his investigations in Cambodia:
(Quote Cohen, NTY)
At Poipet on Thai-Cambodia borderline, nobody doesn’t know incarnated devil Ravana in Mme Lieu, a known human trader; she co-operates with Thai Police (through role of an interpreter) to extract money from customers who frequent crossing border.
The first time Mme L. appeared in this area was in 1990s with a band of disabled children; some spoke Vietnamese, some Khmer or could only make unclear sounds… When someone wonders to make any inquiry, she didn’t hesitate to say: ‘these guys are too hungry at home, and come here for foods’, but she eagerly rented them away from 2000 to 4000 bahts (Thais money) to go beggars in Thailand.
When someone discovered that some children had broken arms by her order to be regarded as disabled or been injected ‘zama’ (a kind of drug from Thailand) to look insane, pale and lost face, forgetting the past, disoriented with space and time, she was accused, arrested by Police, but, nobody knows why (it’s really understandable) in a very short time she was released free and continued to frequent distance between provinces in Mekong Delta and Poi Pet. Every time she returned she grabbed with her some 5 or 10 girls from 18 to 20 years old to send them into Thailand or down to Peninsular Malaysia to be sold out to brothels and practice prostitution! This is a professional human trade ring, Mme L. has her head of connection far reaching at Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur; the importance is she’s keeping close-knit relations with Police and that’s why the transport of girls into Thailand, Malaysia seems too easy?
In February 2004, Thais Police arrested 3 women who took 4 children to sell in Thailand when they had passed the flea market Rong Kloea area; 2 of them were discovered to use false passports and they disclosed that at Poi Pet remained rather numerous children ready to be shipped to Thailand and then transported to Bangkok to practice begging.
Poipet is a ‘free zone’, so it is also an ideal place for criminals to escape from the wanted list, robbers, imposters, and human traders… It is famous to have many ‘girls inns’ (slang for brothel); it is very easy to find a ‘girls inn’ in Poi Pet and in quantity Vietnamese girls are more in number than Cambodians.
Green Building (brothel) well known addresses in Poi Pet belong to Mme Chin ‘MÕ Chuot’ (pointed mouth like a mouse) with 20 girls, Mme Hai ‘Mat Nám’ (burnt face) about 30 girls, at price from 10 to 15 dollars/time. Waves of Vietnamese girls sold into Cambodia is unimaginable, Poi Pet is regarded a main gate to sell Vietnamese as well as Cambodian girls into brothels of Thailand and Malaysia. In Poi Pet there are about 10 gangster groups specialized in across borders human trade, leaders of most of them are Vietnamese. These groups do business strictly to book, very professionally, they have station of receiving and shipping, liaison which spread over at least 4 countries Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia and they keep close relationships with local Police, so rarely they were caught.
According to IOM, right in common border area at Poi Pet, every year there are from 50 to 70,000 Cambodians illegally migrate into Thailand for employment in sewing sweat shops or in the fields. Average income of a Thais in Bangkok is 40 times higher than the one of a Cambodian.
It is very hard to live for a local inhabitant resident so how come to a Vietnamese, it must be unhopeful. In the whole Poi Pet, only 5 Vietnamese can afford to buy land for houses. When it is hard to make a couple of tens baths a day in the flea market Rong Kloea, Thailand, to daily satisfy your stomach, so it is reasonable for 4 or 5 people to combine their earnings to rent a place of merely 8 square meters to live with 400 bahts a month!
No ID, hard to make a living, but God knows why Vietnamese wander in Cambodia and never like to return to Vietnam fatherland. I’m thrilled with the question: How it could be an exit for their poverty, their daughter?
Once stepping inside a brothel, girls are regarded as prisoners of their Mme, their owner. Beside the strict watch and control of pimps like prison supervisors, there is another just and reasonable reason to enclose these girls in limitless time and force them to work for customers’ pleasure is: They have to pay back their owners a sum these people had paid the human traders if they had been abducted.
In case they had been sold by their parents, the sum deducted from services to the customers is never equal enough to level or pay back the sum their parents had sold them for; because the brothel owner would multiply the sum at a compound interest rate. So, although accepting 20 or 30 sex customers a day, a girl could not pay back the sum her parents had taken from the owner. This is retold by N., a Vietnamese victim who had been rescued. This girl had been tricked by a customer who brought her to a remote corner and together with other 20 men raped her. When they brought her back to the brothel she told the story to the owner and she had the true answer ‘it is not owner’s business. N., now a grown up woman, is trying to remake her life.
I wish you’ll have peace in your mind and happy future.
The topic of the movie ‘The Hours’ is condensed in:
‘The time to hide is over. The time to regret is gone. The time to live is now’.
I’d like to forward these words to the young girls rescued out of dark past. Let’s live and never give up hope in human love.