Friday, March 23, 2007
Somaly and Srey: An Update


Child prostitution is a problem all around the world

Sometimes this job makes you mad, sometimes it makes you happy, you have good days, hard days, hot days, hectic days. But however stressful, tiring or elating assignments get, there is one reason that keeps me coming back for more: The people we meet.

Somaly Mam is one person that is humbling, courageous and exudes an inner strength and warmth that is contagious. She was forced into prostitution in Cambodia when she was just 12, and endured horrific ordeals at the hands of the sex tourists and home grown brothel clients, even seeing her best friend shot dead in front of her.

Finally she escaped, but couldn’t forget the children she’d seen, held as sex slaves. She decided to set up her own charity rescuing them and so far more than 150 have been brought out of the darkness into her refuge.

One in particular has touched her heart -- six-year-old Srey.

She was sold by her mother to a brothel on the border with Thailand. Somaly worked with the police, and after a raid, took care of little Srey. Srey is timid, quiet and damaged. She is very ill: HIV positive, suffering from tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Somaly says Srey talks of being raped in the past. I look into this little face and try to imagine the horror those large brown eyes have seen. We have dilemmas about filming with her. But Somaly is reassured: We filmed with Srey a couple of months ago, as sensitively and gently as we could.

Our report generated a huge response last time and it’s encouraging to see Srey has gained a little weight and seems much healthier than before.

We’ve come back to find out how she’s doing, to find out more about her story and to highlight this awful issue for Anderson Cooper, who is anchoring the 360 program from Phnom Penh.

We play with Srey and the other children, and when we feel Srey is relaxed we gradually introduce the camera. Somaly reads a story and Srey seems oblivious to my cameraman and sound recordist.

Somaly knows Srey is a potent symbol -- it’s difficult to imagine a more innocent, vulnerable victim of Cambodia’s sex trade. We’re careful never to show Srey’s face. Srey only speaks Khmer and so is unaware what we are talking about.

I still feel uneasy, but Somaly is adamant that the world must know about children like Srey. It’s estimated by the charities that work in Cambodia that perhaps 30 percent of people working in the sex trade are children. The Cambodia women’s affairs ministry puts the figure at 40 percent.

With a sex industry comprising of 80,000 to 100,000 people, that means that perhaps between 24,000 and 40,000 under-16-year-olds are having their childhood stolen in the most horrendous ways. And that’s just in Cambodia -- child prostitution is a problem all over the world.

We finish and give high fives to Srey, who then comes to the door to wave goodbye. She's heading back to the refuge now, as the sun smears the Cambodian sky butter yellow.

As we drive back to our hotel, we pass the red-light district where the first girls are beginning to appear for another night on the streets. I wonder how many other young children like Srey are being offered for sale tonight and how long Srey will survive before the onslaught of AIDS will claim that fragile little child.

-- From Dan Rivers, CNN International Correspondent
thank you so much for sharing srey's story.

this sex trafficking industry is the slave trade of our day.

by informing the world about this issue, you are forcing us to act.

if we do not act, we are cowards.

"to whom much is given, much is expected."

let this be the generation that ends this modern slavery.
I was sexually abused as a child but no one, not even I can imagine the physical and psychological damage that is done to children exploited in the sex slave trade. The horrific memories of the unspeakable acts they are forced to endure will stay with them their entire life. Parents sell their children for a few dollars, brothells make money exploiting them and, sick pedophiles eagerly pay for the privilage of satisfying their sick, deviant desires. I cannot put into words the anger I feel hearing about these children. It is imortant the world be made aware of this issue but what can we as individuals do to stop this? Being angry is simply not enough.
I viewed your program and shared what I had learned with my teenage son. He is interested in taking some of his hard earned money and wiring it to this courageous woman who saves children from child prostitutuion. Could you please help us contact Somaly so that we can contribute in some small way to her organizaiton?
(rbonne@comcast.net)
I simply cannot comprehend why the governments in these countries turn such a blind eye to a problem everyone knows about. They are destroying their own future.
Thank you for keeping us update about this history. I have read your first report and I can't stop thinking about little Srey and all the unfortunate children that have been exposed to these horrible abuses and life, even by their one parents. This is a cruel reality and I hope that reports like yours can make a reaction on our society to end this terrible and sick business.
No word can describe what these young girls go through each day. The physical and emotional trauma must be very horrible for them. Waking up everyday, knowing that you have to provide sex for some sick men. These pedophiles make me sick to the stomach. It make me so angry to think how can they do this to these young girls. What anger me more is that the government of these countries, particularly Cambodia, are not doing enough to stop this horrific crime. In my opinion, i think the government encourage it more, since corrupt official also commit the crime. The government don't care for their own people, they care only for the money. sex trade is destroying their country. When people try to stand up for the injustice, the government arrest them, like human rights activist Kem Sokha. The government arrested him because he spoke out against them and because he wanted peace and prosperity for Cambodia. We need more people like Mr Kem Sokha and Mrs Somaly Mam. Many believe that since it is happening in other countries, it won't effect us. What ever happen in other countries effect us in some way or another. Think about it... Think twice... For the sake of these innocent girls, and the sake of humanity...
It's inspiring to her about the work that Somaly is doing. She is courageous and doing what most of us think about doing. We would like to support her refuge. Please advise how we can contribute.

maverickcommunications@hotmail.com
Concerning child prostitution and all prostituion on a large commercial scale in South East Asia, the government is not turning a blind eye. They are part of it, profit from it, and offer protection to the red light distristics-they are far from blind where making money, profit, (how ever earned) is concerned. Anderson Cooper would understand this, since he is a "old" Asia hand.
let us not forget the tourists, particularly western tourists, who are fueling the sex trade. it is not only up to the cambodian government to take action; foreign governments should do something to stop their citizens from contributing to the sex slave trade. it is the demand of these preying tourists that is the problem.
Everybody in the world should join hands to stop this & the local government should also take some serious action on it.Like Srey many other childrens are still suffering..Its all in the people's hand..
I am bothered with this issues, no words can describe those devil brutes that do this to children as young as six years old. How i wish their government will open there eyes and do something about it.
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