There are an estimated 261,000 people living in modern slavery in Cambodia (GSI 2018). All of Cambodia's 25 provinces are sources for human trafficking. Cambodian women and girls move from rural areas to cities and tourist destinations where they are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels, beer gardens, massage parlors and salons. Cambodian men form the largest source of demand for children exploited in prostitution, although men from across the world travel to the country to engage in child sex tourism.
When Kolab was seven years old he was told that he had been sold to the people he thought were his parents. At 13, he was sent to Phom Penh where he stayed with two men who offered him a place to live. These men introduced Kolab to another man who forced Kolab into commercial sexual exploitation. He was drugged, raped, and filmed having sex with other men. He was forced to sell drugs and steal and subjected to beatings and torture if he didn’t make enough money.
When I turned 7, I learned that ‘my parents’ were actually foster parents. They told me that my biological parents had sold me shortly after I was born for the equivalent of $1000, since they could not afford to raise me.
When I turned 13, my foster parents sent me to Phnom Penh… Two men said that if I didn’t have any relatives, I could stay with them… Since they were older, I assumed they were safe to live with so I agreed. When we arrived to their home, I saw 15 girls who were strung out on drugs. I felt afraid but was told me everything would be alright. I was introduced to a man called Tiger II. After a week, Tiger II ordered me to have sex with a man on video but I refused… He ordered someone to inject me with drugs. I could no longer refuse because I had no control. I had to do what they wanted which was to be filmed having sex with [other men]...
This torture continued for 20 days and they subdued me with drugs… Tiger II ordered me to sell drugs, sell my body... [and] steal, pickpocket, and cheat my customers by taking their money and motorbikes. If I didn’t make [enough money], they punished me by stripping and beating me with a stick until I fainted, electrocuting me, cutting me and pouring salt water on the cuts, and placing my hands into a bamboo press for up to 20 minutes. To numb the pain, I began taking more drugs… which made me feel invincible and unafraid. They forced me to sleep with as many as 50 customers a day. I had to give Tiger II all my money, but I secretly hid $5 from each customer. I worked for Tiger II for almost 2 years.
Eventually I gained their trust, and they watched me less carefully. One night, I took the money I had saved and stole an additional $500 from the boss in order to run away with a friend… I tried to find work in a factory, but nobody would hire me so I started working at a massage parlor.
One day, the police arrived and closed down the parlor. I was very scared that I would be arrested, but they told me they wanted to help me.
Narrative source Youth Underground, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking through youth education, awareness-raising and advocacy.
Original narrative can be found here: