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2018 (Narrative date)

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.

Phalla was trafficked for sex at the age of 20, in Cambodia. She was sold to a brothel by her grandmother.

When I was 20, my father died and we had nobody to provide for our family, so I had to stop my schooling and move in with my grandmother…

One day she asked me if I wanted to visit Kampong Som by the sea... She brought me into the village to a nice house, which she said belonged to a friend. On the fourth day, my grandma introduced me to the house owner and [told her I needed to stay for] several days... She left and the house owner said she wouldn’t be coming back because she had sold me. She told me I must make money but I couldn’t leave the house... She forced me into the room and locked the door…

That night, I heard someone turn the lock… He said he was my uncle... I was afraid… When he touched me, I immediately pushed him away. He pushed me onto the bed and punched me. My mouth began bleeding and I called for help, but no one answered. He put his arm on my mouth to muffle my screams and then ripped off my clothes and raped me. He said, ‘You are mine for several days. So, I can do whatever I want to you because I gave a lot of money to your boss.’ Then he left the room…

After three months, I was sold to a new brothel owner and the ‘guests’ forced me to have sex copying styles they saw in sex videos… I had 10-15 guests a day. I felt like an animal in the zoo. I couldn’t go anywhere, I never got the money—they gave me drugs, curses and beatings instead. I quickly became a drug user because it helped ease my distress. I had very low self-esteem, harmed myself and was quick to anger. I felt hopeless because I didn’t think anything of my life. I was a slave prostitute.

A few months later, I was sold to a brothel in Thailand where they forced me to have sex with 20-30 men. I worked in this brothel for four months when I met a Khmer man who helped me escape back to Cambodia… He took me to work in a karaoke bar… I ran away but they arrested me and sent me back. I was put in a room underground and beaten by the boss for a few days… After another month back at the karaoke bar, the boss trusted me enough to allow me to go out unsupervised.


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: