...and a present for your family?

Cambodia oozes corruption. Every encounter with law and order or anyone with a link to the government has their hand out and asks for more. Routine transaction (for example, a visa purchase at the border with Thailand) require just a little more grease than would be expected to turns the wheel of bureaucracy. There is a fascinating little case playing itself out in the Cambodian English language media that shows the depths to which official corruption has sunk. Everything at this stage is simply 'alleged', and there's not a lot of point in me testing out the finer points of Cambodian libel law, so presume this all to be mere alleged. Got that. Alleged.

Brothels in Phnom Penh run rife through the city, most of them doubling as hotels or low level guest houses. The give away sign is that the rent out rooms by the half-hour and the staff are amazingly attentive. Last week as part of a crackdown on the illegal practice, a government minstry, the Ministry of the Interior's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department (given the nice, easy to remember acronym of AHTJPD - I shit you not) raided one such brothel/hotel, the Chai Hour II, and found 83 young women offering the aforementioned attentive service.

The 83 were taken away by the department and placed in the care of an NGO who deal with human-trafficking and prostitution, and treated as 'evidence' so that the case and the ringmasters of the operation could be prosecuted. Two days later the shelter the women were being held at was raided by 30 men on motorbikes and in cars who 'liberated' the 83 women, presumably forcefully, so that they could return to work. So far just another case of good guys and bad guys. But here's where it turns super-nasty.

Witnesses report that some of the 30 men who raided the shelter were in Cambodian police or military uniforms, so there was some official part to play in all this. A scary prospect. And then the latest twist which has caused a storm is that the government has suspended the government official who launched the initial raid on the brothel, Un Sokunthea, suggesting that the government is not at all interested in cracking down on human trafficking or illegal prostitution. Things are pretty worrying when power and influence is being used to protect exploitation rather than expose it. Viva Cambodia.

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