August 1, 2017

Cambodia closes NGO for discussing sex trafficking

Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, on Tuesday ordered the closure of a Christian organisation which had discussed child sex trafficking with U.S. broadcaster, CNN, local media reported.

Hun Sen told a group of graduating university students in Phnom Penh that California-based Agape International Mission had “insulted Khmer women’’ by discussing child sex trafficking in Cambodia, state-backed news outlet Fresh News reported.

The July 25 report featured interviews with women who had been sold into prostitution as children by their parents in the village of Svay Pak, known as “Kilometre 11’’ or K-11’’ for its distance from Phnom Penh.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, the village was infamous for its many brothels employing children, many of whom were victims of debt-bondage.

In recent years, Svay Pak has been cleaned up by police but Agape founder Don Brewster told CNN the industry had just been pushed underground.

The Christian organisation, which has operated in Cambodia since 1988, was featured prominently in the report for its role in working with trafficking victims such as those from Svay Pak.

Since airing last week, the Journalist Federations of Cambodia also attacked the report for its negative impact on “Cambodian women’s and children’s dignity as well as the reputation of Cambodia,’’ according to state news outlet Agence Kampuche Presse.

It also took issue with the fact that many residents of Svay Pak are not Khmer, but ethnically Vietnamese, a minority reviled by many Cambodians.

Cambodia is considered a “tier 2’’ country for human trafficking, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. State Department.

The report said that the Cambodian sex trade was now largely clandestine and had moved away from brothels to hotels, beer gardens, massage parlours, salons and karaoke bars.