There was once a King with a chubby face on the Golden Throne of Cambodia. Living in the grand royal palace encrusted with precious of diamond in Phnom Penh, his Grace might have believed that things could last forever until his abdication forced by the then Prime Minister Lon Lol. It happened in the year of one thousand nine hundred and seventy, when the king was travelling out of the country. The city then witnessed a series of political turmoil followed by the victory of the Khmer Rouge, who reset the calendar of Cambodia back to Year Zero. Under the guidance of the agricultural reform, the regime “cleaned up” the capital city with such humane achievement as executing numerous intellectuals, and sending the rest of them to labour camps in rural Cambodia where they were killed by exhaustion. Eight years later, a Vietnamese armed forced recaptured Phnom Penh and established a government. The survived Cambodian had to work unceasingly to rebuild this shelled city, which was still recovering slowly from its traumatized past.
However, walking in the tourist part of the city, I was surprised by its superficial order and security, in particular because it was on an election day. Bars were closed and the selling of alcohol was banned; polling stations were established along the river bank to justify its national boasting of democracy, despite the fact that one party was bound to win in that election, and may elections afterwards.
Just a night before, brothels disguised in bars and cafes lined up on the street in the river front. The under-aged prostitutes in the dark were restaurant waitress in the light, the “happy herbs” topped on pizzas were ordered and delivered happily, young kids were forced to sell DVDs for one dollar, and men disabled by some of those millions of landmines left across the countryside waved their distorted limbs proudly for sympathy.
What shocked me most was not the presence of sex business in Phnom Penh, but the scale of it. there was not a single bar in which I did not see local girls dressed in mini skirt flirting with prospective clientele; there was hardly any café in which I did not see an old foreign man having pre-sessional dinner with a Cambodian woman, be it 1 o’clock in the morning, or 9 o’clock in the morning. In one of the dodgy fortress I saw a girl who had a face of a movie star. Half of her beautiful boobs were squeezed out of her tiny tight top. I asked her why she chose to do this job, she answered that she was from the countryside; her English was not good enough for her to wait tables, so selling their body for 50 dollars a night was her ideal way to make a living. Next to us were a bunch of girls watching porn from a tiny screen of a smart phone. Laughter burst out once in a while, until a man walked in: all the girls quickly dispersed and then gathered around the man like little sparrows.
- Khmer Rouge – Worse than the Worst (rvampie.wordpress.com)