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Leaving the Brothel Behind
New York Times ^ | 1/19/05 | NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Posted on 01/19/2005 7:28:26 PM PST by wagglebee

BATTAMBANG, Cambodia

A year ago, a pimp handed me a quivering teenage girl. Her name was Srey Neth, and she was one of the hundreds of thousands of teenagers who are enslaved by the sex trafficking industry worldwide.

Then I did something dreadfully unjournalistic: I bought her.

I purchased Srey Neth for $150 and another teenager, Srey Mom, for $203, receiving receipts from the brothel owners. As readers may remember, I then freed the girls and took them back to their villages.

Now I've come back to find out how they coped with freedom.

At first, it turns out, everything went well for Srey Neth. Our plan was for her to start a shop in her village, near Battambang. She invested $100 I had given her to build a shack and stock it with food and clothing. For a few months, business boomed.

The problem was her family. Srey Neth's parents and older brothers and sisters had a hard time understanding why they should go hungry when their sister had a store full of food. And her little nephews and nieces, running around the yard, helped themselves when she wasn't looking.

"Srey Neth got mad," her mother recalled. "She said we had to stay away, or everything would be gone. She said she had to have money to buy new things."

But in a Cambodian village, nobody listens to an uneducated teenage girl. Indeed, the low status of girls is the underlying reason why so many daughters are sold to the brothels. So by May, Srey Neth's shop was empty, and she had no money to restock it.

"It was our fault," her father told me, looking ashamed. "It was not Srey Neth's fault."

Srey Neth worried about her father, who was coughing up blood from tuberculosis. She also worried about her older brother, who could not afford to get married, and about the family debts, which could cost her family its land.

It was that kind of concern for her family that had led her, at the suggestion of a female cousin, to sell herself to the brothel in late 2003 and send the proceeds home.

This time, she thought about looking for work as a dishwasher in neighboring Thailand for $1.50 a day. A trafficker said he could smuggle her into Thailand and get her a dishwashing job, but only if she promised him $100.

Some 700,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, and that's often how they end up in the sex industry: they assume debts and then, when they cannot quickly repay the money, gangs force them into brothels - where they are stuck until they are dying of AIDS.

Fortunately, I'd arranged for American Assistance for Cambodia (www.cambodiaschools.com), an aid group, to keep track of Srey Neth. It offered her something less risky: a move to Phnom Penh to learn to be a beautician. So, with money sent to the group by New York Times readers a year ago, Srey Neth started in the beauty school.

That's where I met her again. She was beaming, and she proudly told how she had learned to give manicures and haircuts. She placed third in her class in applying makeup, and she's even studying English. She bubbles with happiness in the way a teenager should.

"I'm happy with Srey Neth," said the beauty school's owner, Sapor Rendall. "She studies hard."

Ms. Rendall added that there was only one problem with Srey Neth: "She doesn't want to do massage. ... I've talked to her about it many times, but she's very reluctant."

Massages are routine in beauty shops in Cambodia and are not sexual, but for Srey Neth, they scream danger. I'm delighted.

Srey Neth cut my hair - I was her first paying customer - and she is excitedly talking about starting her own beauty shop so she can support her family again. She says she'll call it Nick and Bernie's, after me and Bernard Krisher, the chairman of American Assistance for Cambodia.

Today Srey Neth steers clear of the boys trying to flirt with her - she's still deeply distrustful of boys and men - but she has learned to laugh again. She is a happy, giggly, self-confident reminder that we should never give up on the slaves of the 21st century. I couldn't be more proud of her.

That's the good news. In my column on Saturday, I'll tell you about Srey Mom.


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: cambodia; kristof; prostitution; sexslaves; slavery
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At least Kristof was willing to do something about the human tragedy he witnessed, most of his leftist ilk would just blame Bush and America in general.
1 posted on 01/19/2005 7:28:27 PM PST by wagglebee
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To: wagglebee

Wow.


2 posted on 01/19/2005 7:31:46 PM PST by Just Lori (There! I said it!)
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To: wagglebee

Wow, that's terrific. One girl with a *legitimate* marketable skill and a reasonable future may not seem like much, but God values every person immeasurably, and will reward Mr. Kristof for his kindness.


3 posted on 01/19/2005 7:34:56 PM PST by Tax-chick (Happy Birthday to General Lee and James R.)
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To: Spanaway Lori

Yep, it's a very powerful story.


4 posted on 01/19/2005 7:35:22 PM PST by wagglebee (Memo to sKerry: the only thing Bush F'ed up was your career)
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To: wagglebee
At least Kristof was willing to do something about the human tragedy he witnessed

Good for Kristof. This is the way that the truly good things are done in Cambodia.

And good luck to Srey Neth. It's very easy for these girls to get sucked back into the abyss.

5 posted on 01/19/2005 7:36:17 PM PST by angkor
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To: wagglebee

It seems to me that there are some cultural issues at play that lead girls into that situation.


6 posted on 01/19/2005 7:37:01 PM PST by cripplecreek (they call me tater.)
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To: wagglebee

now if only all (or most) male western tourists to SEA would
cultivate this attitude and behavior . we owe it to these long suffering people to help them and not try to take advantage of them.


7 posted on 01/19/2005 7:37:06 PM PST by injin
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To: Spanaway Lori; Tax-chick

Here's another related story that Kristof had the other day
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1321527/posts


8 posted on 01/19/2005 7:38:06 PM PST by wagglebee (Memo to sKerry: the only thing Bush F'ed up was your career)
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To: wagglebee
When Americans give to charity, this is the type of person we should be helping. Someone willing to work and earn money to support herself (though I must add, it is entirely Srey Neth's choice if she wants to support her family, after they ruined her chance of supporting them - at least there was a happy ending.)
9 posted on 01/19/2005 7:38:21 PM PST by zahal724 (I own a lumber company? Want some wood?)
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To: cripplecreek
It seems to me that there are some cultural issues at play that lead girls into that situation.

It's called slavery.

10 posted on 01/19/2005 7:39:11 PM PST by wagglebee (Memo to sKerry: the only thing Bush F'ed up was your career)
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To: Tax-chick
One girl with a *legitimate* marketable skill and a reasonable future may not seem like much

It's a lot.

Getting even one of these girls out of the brothels, and then affording her a skill, also means that her family might have other options. Maybe she'll pay for her brother to go to school, maybe pay for Mom's cataract operation. Maybe both. For certain she'll warn other girls not to be taken by the traffickers and their lies.

11 posted on 01/19/2005 7:43:49 PM PST by angkor
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To: wagglebee

I saw that article. It's horrible. And the sexual abuse of girls and boys by Moslems in Africa and Arabia is horrible. And there's not much I can do about it except pray. Very frustrating!


12 posted on 01/19/2005 7:44:54 PM PST by Tax-chick (Happy Birthday to General Lee and James R.)
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To: angkor

That's a cheering line of reasoning. Thanks!


13 posted on 01/19/2005 7:45:36 PM PST by Tax-chick (Happy Birthday to General Lee and James R.)
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To: injin

I would be looking at Europeans as the biggest customers for the sex trade in that region. Southeast Asia seems to be the biggest tourist destination of Europeans.

The sex trade wouldn't exist if there weren't any consumers.


14 posted on 01/19/2005 7:46:56 PM PST by cripplecreek (they call me tater.)
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To: Tax-chick

I'm just happy to see that a liberal like Kristof actually DOES SOMETHING about these tragedies, most of the others just go and take pictures and try to make us feel guilty for it.


15 posted on 01/19/2005 7:48:04 PM PST by wagglebee (Memo to sKerry: the only thing Bush F'ed up was your career)
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To: wagglebee

It reminds us that all liberals aren't evil. Some are just ... deluded, or something. But this man obviously has good instincts, and perseverance. And a girl owes him her chance in life.

It's a terrific story. I hope the next installment isn't a tragedy!


16 posted on 01/19/2005 7:51:54 PM PST by Tax-chick (Happy Birthday to General Lee and James R.)
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To: wagglebee

Looks like Kristoff took Sam Kinneson's advice about poor people being filmed for the Sallie Struthers special, "Why doesn't the cameraman feed them?" It was a very noble effort, but it shows what do gooders are up against trying to solve these horrible situations. The law of unintended consequences set in when they staked her in a business and it was a failure. Then they retrained her and seem to have succeeded. What this really shows is that the only way to eraidicate this barbarism is through implementing capitalism. When investment is freed up and the market is allowed to function, things like this stop happening. Thailand had many similar forms of white slavery, but since it became more developed these practices stopped. Now they import these people from Cambodia.


17 posted on 01/19/2005 7:55:57 PM PST by appeal2
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To: Tax-chick
And there's not much I can do about it except pray.

Just send Kofi some more money. He'll fix it.

18 posted on 01/19/2005 8:03:14 PM PST by Lizavetta (Modern liberalism: Where everyone must look different but think the same.)
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To: injin; cripplecreek
injin: if only all (or most) male western tourists to SEA would cultivate this attitude and behavior .

cripplecreek: I would be looking at Europeans as the biggest customers for the sex trade in that region.

Wrong and wrong.

The biggest brothel customers in Cambodia are Cambodians; in Thailand, Thais; in Macau, Chinese; and in Vietnam, Vietnamese.

In Cambodia, at least, Westerners are the only people taking really effective action aginst the traffickers. And note that Nick Kristof needed an onsite American NGO to do followup on Srey Neth.

Yes, Westerners avail themselves of the brothels, but not in the percentages that the Western media likes you to believe.

19 posted on 01/19/2005 8:07:28 PM PST by angkor
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To: angkor
Yes, Westerners avail themselves of the brothels, but not in the percentages that the Western media likes you to believe.

That is because all the sex tourists were in Phuket. Don't you read FR? LOL!

20 posted on 01/19/2005 8:08:52 PM PST by killjoy (War is not the answer, simply part of the solution)
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To: appeal2
Now they import these people from Cambodia.

A girl making $1.50 a day in Thailand is better than a girl starving in Cambodia. I have a few friends who you would consider on the 'slave' scale when it comes to wages. They are simply happy they can make money and be alive.

21 posted on 01/19/2005 8:11:28 PM PST by killjoy (War is not the answer, simply part of the solution)
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To: appeal2
Thailand had many similar forms of white slavery, but since it became more developed these practices stopped. Now they import these people from Cambodia.

The Thai prostitutes come mainly from Isan in northeastern Thailand, not from Cambodia.

Though I like your premise about capitalism, Cambodia also is a fairly capitalist society, but with a lot of corruption and a kleptocratic government.

The real problem is that these rural societies which are dirt, dirt poor don't provide too many chances for education or training.

22 posted on 01/19/2005 8:18:35 PM PST by angkor
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To: killjoy
That is because all the sex tourists were in Phuket. Don't you read FR? LOL!

Oh yes, I forgot. Every Westerner in Thailand is a sex tourist. Right.

23 posted on 01/19/2005 8:22:16 PM PST by angkor
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To: Tax-chick
One girl with a *legitimate* marketable skill and a reasonable future may not seem like much, but God values every person immeasurably, and will reward Mr. Kristof for his kindness.

Beautifully stated, Tax-chick.

24 posted on 01/19/2005 8:26:47 PM PST by arasina (So there.)
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To: appeal2
I hope when I die, I'll be known as a "do-gooder".

Yep.

That old AmericanInTokyo did good on this earth.

Yep, that's how I hope I'll go out and on to the other side. "Do-gooder."

25 posted on 01/19/2005 8:27:02 PM PST by AmericanInTokyo (Anyone else see irony in prioritizing Iraq [w/no nukes] as N. Korea kept on making nukes [9 now] ?)
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To: wagglebee
Has outrage been banished from the handbook?

What supercilious driveling, hubristic back-patting, sort of senseless jerk would write this for pay?

26 posted on 01/19/2005 8:27:47 PM PST by Old Professer (When the fear of dying no longer obtains no act is unimaginable.)
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To: appeal2

This reminds me of stories I've read about how African blacks confiscated many stores from their Indian owners during the early years of independence. What the new store owners were unable to understand was that you couldn't immediately spend the profits from each day's sales, because you had to use some of the money to restock.

So, all the stores ran out of goods, the new owners ran out of money, and the economy collapsed.

Keeping the shelves filled seems like a simple concept, but if you've never done anything like that before, evidently the logic of it escapes you, just as it did this girl's family.

You need a little training in basic business methods, and above all you need LAW, so people can run a business without having it stolen, ripped off, or confiscated.


27 posted on 01/19/2005 8:54:46 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: wagglebee
I remember hearing about children in Christian schools helping to raise money for a human rights group to buy slaves in Sudan (I think) and then set them free.

I also remember hearing about a bunch of sanctimonious human rights groups accusing them of "supporting the slave trade."

Those scumbags are typical leftists... Recognizing a problem, and then sitting around, talking amongst themselves about what a terrible thing it is... But condemning those trying to do something about it!

Mark

28 posted on 01/19/2005 9:09:27 PM PST by MarkL (That which does not kill me, has made the last mistake it will ever make!)
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To: Tax-chick
One girl with a *legitimate* marketable skill and a reasonable future may not seem like much, but God values every person immeasurably, and will reward Mr. Kristof for his kindness.

I recall a saying by someone far wiser than myself saying that when you save one person, it's like saving the whole world.

Mark

29 posted on 01/19/2005 9:12:38 PM PST by MarkL (That which does not kill me, has made the last mistake it will ever make!)
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To: wagglebee

The author fails to mention the tragedy that communism is on country.


30 posted on 01/19/2005 9:17:15 PM PST by John Lenin (I feel bad about myself because they really are sick)
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To: Old Professer
What supercilious driveling, hubristic back-patting, sort of senseless jerk would write this for pay?

Try a tall glass of Metamucil. You'll feel a whole lot better.

31 posted on 01/19/2005 9:24:33 PM PST by BlazingArizona
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To: cripplecreek
The Europeans here don't just look for sex. They look for weird sex.
32 posted on 01/19/2005 9:24:38 PM PST by expatguy (http://laotze.blogspot.com/)
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To: wagglebee

The white slavery trade isn't limited to Southeast Asia. Young girls are also smuggled into this country for the same purpose. Most are Korean, Eastern European, and Latin American.


33 posted on 01/19/2005 9:25:24 PM PST by JackelopeBreeder (Proud to be a mean-spirited and divisive loco gringo armed terrorist vigilante cucaracha!)
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To: angkor

In another 5-10 years the Patpong district will go the way of the Combat Zone in Boston and Times Square in NYC. Going into one of those Thai bars and seeing the show to me was one of the most depressing sites I had ever witnessed. You could see that these people were totally exploited.


34 posted on 01/19/2005 10:11:00 PM PST by appeal2
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To: John Lenin
The author fails to mention the tragedy that communism is on country.

Cambodia has a screwy government, but it is not communist. A warlord's kleptocracy maybe, but not communist.

35 posted on 01/20/2005 1:30:48 AM PST by angkor
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To: wagglebee
Kristof actual praises President Bush in a prior article

"...President Bush has done more than his predecessors in making sex trafficking an issue, and his State Department has done a first-rate job exerting pressure - but there's so much more that we could do. The Bush administration could put a real dent in sex trafficking if we were to treat it as firmly as we do, say, pirated movies, and this brazen incident in Cambodia would be a fine place to start...."

( Prior NYT Article)
36 posted on 01/20/2005 7:51:58 AM PST by ricks_place
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To: wagglebee

You got that right.


37 posted on 01/20/2005 8:18:49 AM PST by satchmodog9 (Murder and weather are our only news)
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To: angkor
A warlord's kleptocracy maybe, but not communist.

Is there a differnce between the two ?
38 posted on 01/20/2005 8:53:48 AM PST by John Lenin
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To: John Lenin
Is there a difference between the two ?

Yes. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were communists.

39 posted on 01/20/2005 9:55:54 AM PST by angkor
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To: wagglebee
Ms. Rendall added that there was only one problem with Srey Neth: "She doesn't want to do massage. ...

What?!?!?!? No Happy Ending?

40 posted on 01/20/2005 9:57:41 AM PST by hobbes1 (Hobbes1TheOmniscient® "I know everything so you don't have to" ;)
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To: angkor

But what you are seeing is the same results of what happens when the government controls the wealth in a country.


41 posted on 01/20/2005 10:00:01 AM PST by John Lenin
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To: wagglebee

Ping me if you hear about Strey Mom. I hope it is good news as well.


42 posted on 01/20/2005 10:00:03 AM PST by Ditter
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To: wagglebee

She is a happy, giggly, self-confident reminder that we should never give up on the slaves of the 21st century.

Bump for Truth

43 posted on 01/20/2005 10:05:37 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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To: angkor
Oh yes, I forgot. Every Westerner in Thailand is a sex tourist. Right.

Every second, third, or fourth ...

The slave trade persists ...

Evil does not release its grip willingly.

44 posted on 01/20/2005 10:08:05 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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To: af_vet_1981
Every second, third, or fourth ...

A Ding! for you for accepting MSM propaganda and for being a naive individual.

I know more than a dozen expats in Thailand. Not one of them is a "sex tourist."

As I said above, the largest group of sex customers in Thailand is the Thais themselves. Same in Cambodia. Same in Vietnam.

45 posted on 01/20/2005 10:22:29 AM PST by angkor
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To: angkor
I know more than a dozen expats in Thailand. Not one of them is a "sex tourist."

The only one I knew was and I was shocked that he disgraced himself.

Then again men are weak.

46 posted on 01/20/2005 10:25:12 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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To: John Lenin
what you are seeing is the same results of what happens when the government controls the wealth in a country.

I'm not sure it's that simple, though you do have a partial point.

Having spent a lot of time there, I can assure you that best description of Cambodia's government is "warlord kleptocracy". It isn't even close to being communist.

Yes, wealth is in the hands of the warlords, and they will do just about anything to get it: brothels, heroin trafficking, arms sales (almost openly and to the Tamil Tigers when I was there), and plain old graft and payola.

That's all an effect of the warlord society, and Cambodia is a nation of warriors, no ifs, ands, or buts.

Ironically, Nepal is having a true Maoist Communist insurrection which is aimed at the (also kleptocratic) Rana monarchy. And Nepal also has (or had) several "brothel towns" which were exclusively the domain of Nepalis and Indian traders. No Westerners, not one. They weren't allowed there. Despite those "brothel towns", there is no sex tourism in Nepal. Same in Delhi and Bombay.

The myth that Westerners are responsible for Asian prostitution is absolutely ludicrous and bizarre, though Americans are ignorant and naive enough to believe it. It starts with the locals.

47 posted on 01/20/2005 10:35:42 AM PST by angkor
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To: af_vet_1981
Then again men are weak.

Really?

48 posted on 01/20/2005 10:38:12 AM PST by angkor
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To: wagglebee

Thank you for posting this thread. I look forward to reading the sequel.

E.C.


49 posted on 01/20/2005 10:42:59 AM PST by EvaClement (A cry for all men: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner)
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To: angkor

Really


50 posted on 01/20/2005 10:45:44 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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