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Maclean's November 24, It's very dark -- there are no street lamps and the only light comes from flickering candles set in small Buddhist shrines on the roadside. Promisingly, there doesn't seem to be much activity along the road on this hot summer night. Perhaps the Cambodian government's crackdown on the child-sex trade is having an effect. Back in March, the government had closed most of the odd Svay Pak brothels -- known for housing underaged Vietnamese girls -- in an effort to clean up the country's growing image as a pedophile's paradise.
Our car turns right down a steep and bumpy hill, and at the bottom we are jolted back to reality. What look like rundown garages lining a back alley are really brothels full of young girls. Wearing tight clothes and bright lipstick, several sashay over to the car.
None of them looks older than 14, but they come on like seasoned streetwalkers, licking their lips and thrusting their tiny chests forward. A shirtless boy, who is maybe 10, pushes himself to the front and gestures for me to roll down the window. Sitting in another car is Shuvaloy Majumdar, co-chair of The Future Group, a Calgary-based non-profit organization fighting the sex trade. He leans out his window and lies, telling the boy he wants a girl much younger than those on the street.
Majumdar has brought me to Svay Pak to show the scale of the child-sex trade, and he knows that children as young as four are available but kept hidden by their pimps in an attempt to avoid police raids. After a brief conversation in Vietnamese with a rough-looking brothel manager, the boy leads Majumdar and three others down a narrow pathway to a small cabin.
Inside, Majumdar takes a seat in a creaky metal chair beside a stained mattress. Within seconds, two girls, who claim they're 6 and 8, join him. Just awakened, they're wearing cotton pajamas and rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. At first, the girls stand silently and rigidly together.