Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, has a road along the river, going north from the centre. This is not a route, which at first glance, should be much sought after by Westerners. From the river boulevard the route deteriorates into an area of bedraggled factories. After the factories come the very poor shanty areas where old wooden houses crowd the sides of the road. Dirty children, often naked, play in the dust. Dogs and chickens scavenge in the dirt. People, of all ages, stare dissolutely from the battered buildings. Motorbike trailer buses are the means of transport. However it is up this road that many Westerners venture, not once, but several times. They are heading for the point eleven kilometers out of town, appropriately enough called K11.
There is no obvious sign of K11. The only clue an arch over an earth road leading down off the dubious tarmac of the main road. Having turned in the first hint, of what is there, would be the battered sign that says air conditioning on the first real building. The road twists to the left and then to the right, before new shop houses appear on either side. The shops are not developed. A few are stalls selling a variety of essentials. Some are makeshift restaurants. There are at least two gold shops, which are probably just as essential as the shops selling food.
In this dirt street, rutted and paved with assorted debris of plastic bags, crushed beer cans, bits of miscellaneous metal and abandoned fruit skins, a mighty enterprise operates. Among the children, the dogs, the puppies and the roosters the shop houses peddle that all sort after commodity – sexual adventure. The attraction is the young age of many the girls.
The shop houses are the bordellos of the Vietnamese village, which is attached to this area. As a new car bumps down the track a bell rings and, from the shop houses, girls pour onto the street.
They are dressed in a variety of clothes from jeans, favoured by many, to short skirts and even long frocks. The one common denominator is the make up.
Clearly many of the girls, on the street, are over 18. It is difficult to tell how old many of the younger looking girls are. If you ask them they will say nineteen, or even twenty. And with the make up, and their life experience to date, they certainly do not seem to be that young. However there are girls of ten and twelve wandering around in pretty dresses and one has to wonder.
Some of the shop houses have become make shift bars and it is possible to sit and watch the action. With no cars around the girls will drift over and try to encourage business. Any sign of interest and her mamasan will appear. The rate is a flat $5, three to the mamasan and two to the girl. The money is always paid to the mamas. The girl will say she gets nothing from the initial $5 and hope for a decent tip.
I sat in the afternoon sunshine, a cold can of Tiger beer in my hand, my feet on a pile of builder’s rubble. At my table sat a large American, who was there to sample the goods, and a diplomatic Brit, who was there to take in the scene. We chatted amiably as strangers do. The American was forthcoming and talked of the scene. The Brit was silent. We watched a young girl with a large tray on her head wander past aimlessly selling the snails in the tray. A boy stuck a saucepan on his head. Then the bell rang. Suddenly there was activity. The girls hurried out to form a line. A new clean white car wobbled up the road. The round eye passengers grinning sheepishly at the assembled swarm of anxious girls. This scene repeated itself as cans of beer were supplied by the women running the make shift bar. In the back the local men, and the drivers of the visitors, watched TV.
Across the street, at the entrance to one of the houses, a man wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with liveporn.com wandered in and out and chatted with the girls. We were interested to find out exactly what he was up to. We were assured he was just a normal punter.
A youngish looking girl came over to the American. He was clearly very interested. The mamasan appeared. How old he asked. Nineteen was the reply. A little chat and the American and the girl disappeared over the road. The diplomat and I sat gently chewing the cud for a while. The American reappeared. We looked up questioningly. “I did nothing” he protested. “She was thirteen:” He added, “I reckon”
We pushed him on the time it had taken to find this out. But he insisted it had taken an age to get the girl to reveal enough to make a judgment. We still looked doubtful.
A man, who I had met in a bar the night before wandered up. He knows the scene well and assured me that the young girls are kept out of sight. And there used to be one house that specialized in providing young girls, although it now seemed to be closed.
A “Medicin sans Frontier” Landrover bounced in and then out, having picked up a young female (doctor I suppose). I wondered what she thought of K11. I wondered how old her patients were, and what were their ailments.
As I was driven back to Phnom Penh I was forced to reflect on K11. To most people, from the West, I had visited a place that had practices that were indefensible in any language, or custom. However does anybody offer a real alternative to these people, other than abject poverty. At least K11, despite the apparent squalor, was clean. The people were fed and all seemed to be well enough. There was plenty of laughter. Yes they were living off immoral earnings (as we euphemistically call it) and worse. But at least they were living!
K11 គឺមានន័យថាគីឡូម៉ែត្រលេខ១១ ផ្លូវជាតិលេខ៥ ដែលមានទីតាំងក្នុងតំបន់ស្វាយប៉ាក។
អត្ថបទនេះសរសេរក្នុងឆ្នាំ២០០០ ខ្ញុំមិនបានកែ ហើយក៏មិនបានបកប្រែដែរ គឺទុកវានៅដូចដើម។
ប្រភព : baronbonk