Guest post – about Cambodia

Understanding Trafficking can be your forum for discussion.  Discussion is good.    How else can we resolve misunderstanding?

SpurredoninDublin offered two longish comments and so I asked if he wished to offer a long response with his own post – and here it is.        I have made very small changes.  I call it a Guest Post.  You can have this space too.  Ask me!  Say your piece  on this topic.  Here is – – 

By SpurredoninDublin.   

“In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty“, as the song goes, the main nightlife area is Temple Bar. It is no different from other nightlife areas throughout the world, especially as it has a pretty typical population of beggars looking to feed their substance abuse problems.
Due to the increasing popularity of Dublin as an international tourist destination, you can actually tell who the beggars are before they ask you for money. The first question is no longer, “Can you spare some change”? In these days of business efficiency, in order not to wast their time, the first question is “Do you speak English”? It seems most beggars never considered that being multi-lingual might be an enhancement to their careers in one of Europe’s top tourist destinations.
Over the space of an evening, you might be approached by several of these people, and once you had a drink or two, you might actually start feeling a bit of pity for them. Of course, no matter how generous you are, you will not want to give to every one of them, but occasionally there will be that person who perhaps because of his charm or apparent sense of humour, will get you to put your hand into your pocket. One of the most common lines you will hear from them after they have established your English language skills is, “Can you spare some change, and I promise I won’t spend any of it on food”.
And for once in your life, you know that your donation will be spent exactly the way the collector says it will. You can be certain that this particular organization will not have a team of well paid professionals running it, ensconced in plush offices, all travelling the planet business class and roughing in it 4-star hotels. Now how often, when you have been solicited for a donation, can you claim to have that knowledge?
If any of you had read about the recent downfall of Somaly Mam of the eponymous Foundation, you will be aware that unlike our Temple Bar beggar, there was a great lack of transparency, as well as many lies told about both her origins as well as about those she claimed she was trying to help.
If you are familiar with Cambodia, you are probably aware that most Khmers exist on $3 day in homes that usually lack the basic essentials of water and power. Mam had it a little easier on a salary of $125,000 a year while travelling the world first class. And of course when you start looking at the difference between First Class air travel and say, “Premium Economy,” and you realise that the $3,000+ saving could have helped 30 women for a month, you might wonder if Mam lost any sleep over this in her 5-star hotel room.
But before any of you think that this is a hatchet job on Mam, you need to be aware that she is not unique in her field. Cambodia, as an example has about 20 Western run NGO’s whose stated aim is to track down pedophiles. Before I talk much further about them, I’d like to flash back to my schooldays, when I first learned about Christopher Columbus. What impressed me most about him was his approach to the problem of travelling to “The Indies”. He reasoned that if the world was round, then it must be possible to get there by travelling in the opposite direction and thus avoid travelling along the coast of Africa. Nowadays, we would say, “He thinks outside the box”! And our problem with the Western NGO’s is that we know so little about what goes on, that we never think outside the box.
For the purposes of this blog, try to think like a pedo (slang for pedophile in American English and paedophile in British English)   living in the west and spending his holiday time molesting children in third world countries. You have limited funds and you have to earn a living and you are perhaps on a two week vacation to say Cambodia. When you arrive, you set about looking for a victim. If you take the direct approach and offer the child money for sex, you take the risk that he might tell the police, or worse still a family member who believes in summary justice. Clearly, the direct approach presents hazards and you are not there to spend your time in a third world prison, or be lynched by the locals, so one alternative is “grooming”.
Again, this presents new problems as you might spend several very valuable days of your holiday grooming a child that may well decide to remember what his mother told him about going to a hotel room with a stranger. And even if you, still thinking like a pedo can persuade the child, you have to worry that the hotel staff will call the cops, which is prone to happen.
So just how does a pedo make sure that his trip to Cambodia will give him happy memories, without fear of having to take a ten year sabbatical in a Khmer dungeon? The answer is that these children are readily available in brothels that cater mainly to local men. And finding these places is not as difficult as you might think it should be. If you are an unaccompanied male walking  the streets of Phnom Penh at night, you will be persistently accosted by TukTuk (local taxis) drivers, offering various services, including “Young girl”. If you ask “How young”, the answer is always the same: “How young you want”?
By now, some of you might understand about thinking outside the box, and be wondering why, if it seems that every TukTuk in Phnom Penh knows where to find a child to abuse; don’t the police have this information? The answer is that they do, but you are dealing with one of the most corrupt police forces on the planet, and the chances are that the brothel might be owned by a cop, or a close relative, a local politician, a senior military officer, or will be paying extortion to the cops.
And so we take a closer look at the twenty or so Western NGO’s that you might have donated to. One thing they all have in common, are that, if and when a Western pedo is arrested, all of the NGOs claim to have tipped off the cops to this unsavoury character and are happy to go on the record with the local media. The cuttings are then put in a scrap book, so the donor’s can be impressed that their money is producing results. So with 20 or so of these organizations protecting children, you might expect that Cambodian prisons are full of Western pedos, but you would be wrong. Though Cambodia remains among the top destinations for pedo tourists, the number of Westerners arrested in any year is usually less than 20.
The reality is that when a Western pedo is finally nailed, the most common tip-off is from hotel staff.  NGO’s are rarely involved. In fact if you were to research the circumstances of any of these arrests, you would have trouble finding a single case where a Western pedo was found in a brothel, and they are invariably arrested either in their hotel, or in private accommodation.
By now, you might have asked that if the TukTuks and the Police know where to find these victims, then why don’t the NGO’s?  The truth is that they do know, but as I have already mentioned, the brothels are protected by official corruption. Any NGO that wants to make an issue of this, will soon find themselves without a visa, waiting to take a flight home, instead of driving around Phnon Penh with a Khmer girlfriend in his shiny four-while drive that you have paid for. In other words, he will need to find himself a real job.
Of course there are zealots among these NGO’s who do try to make a difference by actively pursuing suspected pedos, but they lack the sophistication of real cops, and they will not be above dubious tactics such as employing underage boys and girls to set a “honey trap” for the suspect. And these kids in turn have been known to lie about their age to the suspect. If any of you have seen have seen “To Catch A Predator”, you will know that the cops do not use underage persons, even if it is on the end of a computer, because of the potential for harm to the young person. However, the zealots see the means justifying the ends and are prepared to let kids go with suspected pedos in the hope that the Police will arrive before any harm is done.
Of course apart from Somaly Mam, there are Cambodians who are fighting the good fight, who unlike the Western NGO’s do not face deportation, and are prepared to tell it like it is, and that is that 98% of all abuse by pedos in Cambodia, is committed by Cambodian men. And this raises another common factor amongst the Western NGO’s. They are never responsible for any of the arrests of Khmer men. By now, it should not surprise you to know that when a Khmer is arrested for this, it is again, rarely in a brothel.
If you are discovering this for the first time, and you are donating regularly to these NGO’s, after you have calmed down at the thought that your generosity has been abused, you might wonder what the answer is to stop this abomination against children. The answer is relatively simple. Cambodia is a major recipient of Foreign Aid from several of the world’s richest nations: Aid must be linked to Cambodia actively pursuing the brothel owners who are using these children, as well as the corrupt officials who are extorting the brothels and helping to perpetuate this evil. And when they start to turn over these rocks, they will also be amazed to discover that these brothel owners also indulge in another less than charming sideline: Trafficked Women.
So next time someone tugs on your heartstrings asking you to help prevent children being raped by monsters, instead of getting your wallet out, get on your computer and tell your representative that you want to see Foreign Aid linked to the ending of these crimes.
During the meantime, you might want to consider that the next time you are in Temple Bar and are approached by a beggar, at least you do know where he will be spending your money!


DISCLAIMER:  What you see above are the opinions of SpurredoninDublin and not those of this blog.

COMMENT:  While there is a lot of room for agreement on what is said here, it is the position of this blog, UnderstandingTrafficking, that when a powerful country denies foreign aid in the form of sanctions, as the writer suggests should be done, and links this to demands for changes in the legal system of a poorer country, this is Modern Day Imperialism.  Administrating foreign aid properly, as well as ignoring national sovereignty, are delicate foreign policy decisions.  Until there is overwhelming demand for one global police force and one global justice system, speaking for Understanding Trafficking, I choose sanctity of national sovereignty over imperialistic demands.

I urge anyone to add their own comments to this post below and share topics you wish to post here.




  1. I can understand your point about “Imperialism”, but how often do we see aid being linked to improvements in Human Rights?

    The subject of Foreign Aid will always be sensitive with many people outraged that there are problems at home, but they are being obliged to donate through their taxes to poorer countries. But when you see that the money is being given to a corrupt regime that refuses to deal with it’s own problems, are the donors not entitled to demand change?

    • My reply: change foreign aid policy without linking it to imperialistic demands to do something else. America will just look miserly instead of thuggish. By the way this subject also relates to feeding the poor and in time of famine. Because American aid has be come in the form of food bought from American farmers and be shipped in American ships, donated food will often arrive in trucks that drive right by full, but local, warehouses and arrive to late to prevent many deaths. Yet America still donates quite a bit less per capita than most other first world countries.

    • I like the way you say that imperialism and aid being linked to improvement to human right. It is supposed to be I suppose but here we think that, since we call it imperialism the link is not at all connected with improvements to human rights. That is the eye wash for public consumption. The aid is linked to demands to behave in the way America says to behave which is many cases is in America’s image and not at all the way people want to behave within their own culture. That is why trafficking laws are so scary. At this website we see trafficking as a way people struggle to seek an opportunity and they are also the way first world people keep the lid on around the world. In another 20 years or another billion people traffickers will look like heroes to most ordinary people. And that is just my opinion, but it is my website!

      • Let me add, now several months later, that things we say as contrarians opposing what seems to be the common knowledge of others, needs repeating as often and in as many ways as those rescue industry zealots repeat their distortions and exaggerations. When their donations start to slack off it might be the only way we will learn our work has real meaning.

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