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Glimmers of hope where men pay for sex with children

The Vancouver Sun reports:

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Svay Pak is a hellhole, a dirty, stinking slum of about 4,000 people. It’s also notorious for being one of few places where men can pay for sex with children as young as three.

When Pastor Chantha Hem, his wife, Bunthan, and their baby son came here three years ago from Phnom Penh, they moved into a former brothel. Their pink room, upstairs, had been reserved for the raping of virgins.

Downstairs, there were bare-walled cells with wooden slatted beds and sleeping mats that had been rented out by the hour, mostly to foreign men who wanted to have sex with children.

“I am not just a pastor,” Hem says. “We try to stop child trafficking. Sometimes we confront traffickers and gangsters. This is my challenge …

“The foreigners come night and day. Sometimes I pretend like a pimp and we have communications with them and we try to record it and we try to get information to give to the police. It is very dangerous. But we have to try to stop this.”

The pastor says 90 per cent of an estimated 2,000 children in this village have been sold to a pimp or a brothel owner and been sexually abused.

“Most are abandoned by their parents and live with their grandparents or a neighbour or some other relative. The moms are gone … It’s very difficult to forgive the parents.”

Among his 250 parishioners, Hem says 12 or 13 are former brothel owners — both men and women. Among their business partners, he says, were government officials and even army officers.

“They told me that when you sell children who are five, six, seven or eight years old, you feel shame. Your heart feels guilty … But now they come to church. Some are doing good [things] and some are still doing bad things.”

The village, however, has changed.

Read more here.

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