Inspired: Chab Dai’s work with sex trafficking in Cambodia

Chab Dai is a collaboration of organizations working to fight sex trafficking. Founded in Cambodia in 2005,  the organization aims to bring an end to trafficking and sexual exploitation through coalition building, community prevention, advocacy and research. In addition to our office in Cambodia, the vision of Chab Dai has been expanded into the USA and Canada. (from their website

They just released the 2nd annual report on re-integration of victims of trafficking. In this report Chab Dai conducts interviews with survivors of trafficking in an effort to understand what is most helpful to them, what contributes to resilience, where survivors are vulnerable, and what their major concerns are.

Below are a few quotes from the report. These quotes reflect some of the thoughts and struggles survivors of sex trafficking deal with in the process of re-integrating into their communities. You can view the full report here: Chab Dai Report 

“Now I know that there are good people and bad people in the world. After my bad
experience I thought there were only bad people in the world, but now I know that
there are both kinds. I think getting counseling is helping me to learn to trust good
In-depth Interview, Female in RP (RP stands for Residential Program)

“We should hide in the shelter and wait until the problem we had in our past goes away,
and as it goes we can forget about the people outside as they forget about us. So when
we come out [of the shelter] we can know we are not the same even if society still says
we are bad.”
In-depth Interview, Female in RP

“I don’t know how much she earned as a sex work but I know having sex with men was
breaking her heart. Her only goal was to get enough money to support her parents.”
In-depth Interview, Female in RP

“My friend returned to sex work. She said she did because she could only !nd work on
other people’s farms and could only earn 10000R per day and that was not enough to
survive. She said she could earn more money doing sex work. I think she can earn money
now but when she get old and if she gets HIV her life will not end good.”
In-depth Interview, Female in RP

Trafficking in Cambodia: The Statistics

We found this article from the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women about trafficking in Cambodia. Much of the information is at least 10 years old, but it’s a starting point for understanding what trafficking looks like in Cambodia. For the full story, go here:


Prostituted girls, most of them aged 15 to18 years of age, are found in the Svay Pak red-light district of Cambodia. Many girls are much younger. Most of them are smuggled in from Vietnam and all are bound by contracts, which last from six months to over a year. Svay Pak has the largest number of prostituted Vietnamese girls. (“The Street of Little Flowers,” rewritten from ‘Children of the Dust,’ by MIKEL FLAMM and NGO KIM CUC, Bangkok Post, 23 February 1997)Many of the prostituted women and children in Cambodia are from Vietnam. (Chris Seper, “Police Sweeps Help Clean Up Child Prostitution,” Christian Science Monitor, 8 January 1998)

Vietnamese girls are commonly brought to Phnom Penh, where they are concentrated in a strip 15 km north of the city in an area known as Svay Pak. (Laura Bobak, “For Sale: The Innocence of Cambodia,” Ottawa Sun, 24 October 1996)Policy and Law

Under newly passed legislation by the Macao Legislative Assembly, homicide, abduction, smuggling of people, forcing others into prostitution, aiding illegal immigration, illegally trading, and the manufacture, use, possession, and smuggling of arms are considered organized crime activities, and are punishable of 5-12 years in prison. (“Macao sets up new law to stop organized crime,” Xinhua, 5 August 1997)

Methods and Techniques of TraffickersUnofficial estimates say that there are as many as 15,000 prostituted persons in Phnom Penh, and that up to 35% of them have been smuggled into Cambodia from China or Vietman, mostly from the southwestern provinces of Vietnam (Long An, An Giang, Song Be, Kien Giang, Dong Thap, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City). Brothel owners pay traffickers from US$350 to $450 (8,750 to 11,250 baht) for each attractive Vietnamese virgin 16 years or younger. Non-virgins and those considered less beautiful are sold from $150 to $170 each (3,750 to 4,250 baht). (“Children of the dust,” rewritten from ‘Children of the Dust,’ by MIKEL FLAMM and NGO KIM CUC, Bangkok Post, 23 February 1997)

Girls bound by contacts to a brother owner have their debt to the brothel owner subtracted from the number of customers serviced. It may take from six months to a year or more to work off this debt. The fees that have been paid to their families, trafficking agents, and border guards compound the total debt. Once all debts are paid off, the prostituted person makes from $2 to $3 [50 to 75 baht] per customer, this is after the brother owner has taken their own cut. (“The Street of Little Flowers,” rewritten from ‘Children of the Dust,’ by MIKEL FLAMM and NGO KIM CUC, Bangkok Post, 23 February 1997)

Virgins, who have been sold to brothels by trafficking agents, are confined to the brothel or a hotel room until the first client comes. Due to the belief that sex with a virgin has rejuvenating properties, her first client is charged an expensive amount. Advertised as “special commodities,” virgins are also attractive in that they are less likely to have AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. The customer pays from $300 to $400 (7,500 to 10,000 baht) to have sex with her for one week in a local hotel chosen by the brothel owner. (“Children of the dust,” rewritten from ‘Children of the Dust,’ by MIKEL FLAMM and NGO KIM CUC, Bangkok Post, 23 February 1997)

When recruited by brokers in a village, the girls’ families are told they will be employed and be able to send money home. After the girls are purchased, usually for about $150, they are brought to a hotel room or safe house where they are kept until they can be sold to their first buyer for $300 to $400 for a week. But after this, the girl is considered “used goods” and her value drops dramatically to as little as $2 per sexual transaction. (Laura Bobak, “For Sale: The Innocence of Cambodia,” Ottawa Sun, 24 October 1996)

The enslaved girls must stay until their debt to their purchasers is paid off, or face beatings. This is difficult, if not impossible, since the owners consider the girls indebted to to them for their constantly mounting expenses for food, clothing, medical costs and abortions. As a result, a brothel owner will hold a girl prisoner until she becomes too old or too ill to attract customers. (Laura Bobak, “For Sale: The Innocence of Cambodia,” Ottawa Sun, 24 October 1996)

A trafficking network, operating under protection from local authorities, was discovered by human rights workers in Cambodia. For at least two years in Koh Kong province the network trafficked hundreds of children a month into Trat province, Thailand. The children are sold for $70 each. Some children were drugged and forced into prostitution. Other children who were sent to work on fishing boats were often arbitrarily tossed overboard to drown. (“Child slavery ring uncovered in Cambodia,” Associated Foreign Press, 19 December 1997)


A trafficker was arrested and confessed to having abducted 1,800 women from Beijing. Because of opposition from the villagers and from local officials, police were only able to rescue six women out of 1,800. (Stephanie Ho, “Trafficking of Women in China,” Voice of America, 27 September 1997)

A 12-year-old girl from the Zheijang region was sold for US$40,000 to a trafficker. She was taken to Bangkok, Thailand for “instruction” in prostitution. Authorities found the girl in Italy. Her destination was the sex industry in Miami, Florida, USA. (“Pedophilia ring uncovered in Italy,” USA Today, Nov 1997)

A Vietnamese woman, one of seven, was trafficked under false pretenses to China. She escaped from the brothel, and returned to Vietnam, where she was locked in a hut and threatened by a local Public Security Bureau official. She eventually fled to Hong Kong in July 1991, and filed for refugee status, which was denied in 1993. In February 1998, she was still appealing the decision. (“Viet women Œdeceived into life as Œsex slaves¹,” South China Morning Post, 21 January 1998)