Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cambodia Revisited.

Second oldest crime, selling humans.
Long Pross

Cambodian brothel

Cambodian women on the street

On January 1, 2009 I wrote a post entitled Sex Trafficking, The World's Second Oldest Crime. Since then it has become the most visited post on this site. Many of those who find their way there are seeking the obvious and only pause to realize that it does not appeal to their prurient interests. But more importantly, quite a few stay to read about Somaly and Sina and visit the link to the Somaly Foundation and the related links about Cambodia that appear under the Honoring our Commitments sidebar.

The problem of Sex trafficking continues to been written about by Nicholas Kristof at the, Nick Kristoff blog. and in the pages of the New York Times.

Kristof has written several times about CAMBODIA and the issues that still haunt a country that became part of the collateral damage of the war in Vietnam. Both the United States and Vietnam must assume a share in the destruction that tore the fabric of this once peaceful and beautiful country. Vietnam should assume more of the blame for using it as a staging area in violation of Cambodia's neutrality and the United States almost equally for not doing more to support the government of Cambodia in it's effort to prevent what occurred in the 1970's after we entered the country in an effort to end the Vietnamese sanctuaries and destabilized the fragile government.

I am compelled to return to this subject to draw attention to the latest reports filed by Kristof about Cambodia. I do this as part of my own recognition that as a soldier in the war next door, I feel a shared responsibility to add my voice to encourage help for this nation. After reading the article linked below, take the time to watch the video linked in the article to grasp in a few minutes what thousands of words cannot describe.
Kristoff writes:

Barack Obama’s presidency marks a triumph over the legacy of slavery, so it would be particularly meaningful if he led a new abolitionist movement against 21st-century slavery — like the trafficking of girls into brothels.

Anyone who thinks it is hyperbole to describe sex trafficking as slavery should look at the maimed face of a teenage girl, Long Pross.

Glance at Pross from her left, and she looks like a normal, fun-loving girl, with a pretty face and a joyous smile. Then move around, and you see where her brothel owner gouged out her right eye.

Yes, I know it’s hard to read this. But it’s infinitely more painful for Pross to recount the humiliations she suffered, yet she summoned the strength to do so — and to appear in a video posted online with this column — because she wants people to understand how brutal sex trafficking can be.

Kristof writes about buying two young girls in this story.

In trying to figure out how we can defeat sex trafficking, a starting point is to think like a brothel owner.
My guide to that has been Sok Khorn, an amiable middle-aged woman who is a longtime brothel owner here in the wild Cambodian town of Poipet. I met her five years ago when she sold me a teenager, Srey Mom, for $203 and then blithely wrote me a receipt confirming that the girl was now my property. At another brothel nearby, I purchased another imprisoned teenager for $150.

Astonished that in the 21st century I had bought two human beings, I took them back to their villages and worked with a local aid group to help them start small businesses. I’ve remained close to them over the years, but the results were mixed.
Read more as well as watching the linked video: OP-ED COLUMNIST; Striking The Brothels' Bottom Line

Kristof sees part of the pathway to lead young women away from a short dirty life of abuse and drugs is through education. In this post he discusses how new schools are helping to mend broken souls.

One of the frustrations in trying to teach kids to read there is that, frankly, there aren’t a lot of great books to teach with. And exciting stories that might entice young people to read often aren’t translated into Khmer, the Cambodian language. So a few years ago, Bernie convinced J.K. Rowling to donate the rights to the first book so that a low-priced Khmer version could be published, so as to hook young people into reading.

Now the world is filled with crappy places where the worst of human spirit still flourish. I look at Cambodia and see a cast-off of the Vietnam War that went through a horrific time in it's history called, the Killing Fields. Today, Cambodia is still recovering from the loss of a whole generation of future leaders and remains landlocked in a swampy time warp, awaiting the development that has stimulated it's neighbors.

Another reason prompts me to keep writing about Cambodia. A couple of years ago I met a young person whose parents escaped Cambodia during the worst of times. They went through hardships that they still keep tucked to their breasts so as to protect their five daughters from knowing what they endured to give their children a chance at life. I do not know this woman's families history except to know that her parents came here with nothing, made a life in a strange culture and out of that, saw a daughter graduate this past year from a university with a degree in international business, The First Saturday in May.

Now that she has graduated and seeks her future, this young woman remains a prize for any organization to capture. Her heart is dedicated to caring about people so much that once when she returned from a first vacation out of the country to the Bahamas, her favorite story was about the impression of the taxi driver who had his wife and small child riding along in the cab as they deposited her and her friends to a nightspot, and her concern that they got a reasonable tip. She is moved to write down quotes and use them as a guide. "We don't accomplish anything in this world alone... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads form one to another that creates something." Sandra Day O'Connor.
I have not seen this person since she went forth to seek her future, but her spirit endures and makes me proud to have encouraged her on her quest and been one small thread in the tapestry that will be her life.

So if you are reading this it is because what ever brought you here kept your attention to read about something more important that instant gratification. It is the investment in human connectivity that endures.

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