Virginity for Sale

Virginity for sale:  inside Cambodia’s shocking trade

On the margins of the sex industry, an ugly market in virginity has emerged in Cambodia in which rich and powerful men coerce desperate mothers into selling their daughters’ innocence.

Read Abigail Howarth’s article that appeared in the Observer Magazine on 6 July 2014.

Do you want to help the girls who have suffered from this exploitation?

Hagar International deserves your support.

Hagar serves women and children who have survived the most extreme cases of human rights abuse – sexual exploitation and violent rape, trafficking for labour and forced work, domestic violence and acid attacks. Hagar walks the entire journey of recovery – through recovery shelters, legal support, education and employment programmes, health care, trauma counselling and transitional and reintegration support.

Forty Years Ago: Part 5

In the year leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 we are publishing extracts from the newsletters produced by Cambodia for Christ.

Newsletter 4, May 1974

This month in Cambodia the monsoon rains began to fall, bringing to a halt until October most of the military activity – perhaps a time of peace for a while. Life goes on as normal for the Khmer people accustomed now to the signs of war in their midst: soldiers, refugees, curfews and power cuts. The past three years have seen progress and some setbacks for the government of Cambodia in the defence of their country. Though the communists are strong in the rural areas and have conscripted many Cambodians for their “liberation” army, they have had few major successes, and their two campaigns to take the capital of Phnom Penh have failed after many predictions that it would fall. In three years the Khmer Rouge have only succeeded in taking one provincial capital, the small but historically significant town of Oudong, once the Royal Capital, a town of about 50,000 people lying about 24 miles north-west of Phnom Penh. Oudong fell in March this year. The bombing of Phnom Penh’s suburbs which caused panic and confusion and led to the exodus of many foreigners stopped after a month due to heavy shelling of the communist position by government forces. The Khmer army is beginning to regain confidence and it seems as if the present situation could continue indefinitely, with neither side able to gain complete victory.

Missionaries in Phnom Penh report that although the war has had its effect, military-wise it is calmer than expected and rocket scars are not as evident as the news media would lead one to think. The airport was 90% destroyed in 1970, but today you would not detect that it had been hit. Malnutrition amongst refugees is one of the biggest problems and although many relief agencies are at work, refugees do not have the money to buy proper food and the children especially are suffering.

All Cambodians are aware of the serious political and economic situation. Khmer Christians are praying, that there may be many more years of opportunity to share their faith with their own people. One young Cambodian when asked if he was prepared to stand for his faith in the event of a hostile takeover said he was, and that he fully expected to be behind bars one day because of his love for Jesus Christ. It is commonly felt among Christians in Cambodia that a regime hostile to Christianity could put the Cambodian Church back into the shadows once again. Christians need to remember this tiny land of seven million people and its small, but growing Church. In letters from Khmer Christians they always plead that we urge the Body of Christ everywhere to pray for Cambodia and the Christian witness there. Will you pray?

Note

We do not have a copy of Newsletter 5, so the next extracts to be published will be from Newsletter 6, first issued in October 1974.

Bachelor of Laws Degree Awarded

Degree certificate

Mr MS’s degree certificate

The first CCC-sponsored student to study law has been awarded his degree.

CCC started supporting the education of Mr MS in 2003, initially helping him to attain a good standard in the English language. He was then ready to embark on a law degree course delivered in English. For seven years MS has persevered in part-time study while working as a freelance translator to support his family. More recently he has been employed by an international non-governmental organisation working to end sex trafficking in Cambodia.

As MS neared the end of his course, the university made various changes to its procedures making it harder for students in the faculty of laws to pass, prolonging the course for MS and other students. Finally, the school was forced to organise a final exit-exam and score the completed theses from students whose work they previously did not accept (or was regarded as ‘out of date’).

Mr MS wrote:

CCC started supporting me when I was single, about ten years ago. Now there are four of us. While Daddy is joining in the upfront army fighting against the social injustice of Modern Child Sex Slavery and Mommy is working as an accountant head for million-dollar projects of an NGO, our children are receiving one of the best educations in an International School in Cambodia.

He added:

Moreover, all of us are committed disciples of Jesus, and are taking His Words seriously daily. Anyway, by looking at what I currently have, I truly appreciate and value [my sponsors’] support for me. It has meant a lot and I can see that that meaning will never stop! May you all know that I have been thanking them every day.

MS graduated on 18 March 2014 and will receive his degree at an award ceremony in June.

Forty Years Ago: Part 4

In the year leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 we are publishing extracts from the newsletters produced by Cambodia for Christ.

Newsletter 3, March 1974

“The greatest of the Cambodian war’s tragedies is that no one knows how to end it. Militarily and diplomatically there simply is no end in sight for what surely must be the world’s saddest, least honourable, and most unnecessary war. More than two million of Cambodia’s seven million have been made homeless by it; the casualties are uncounted but estimated in the hundreds of thousands. The Cambodian economy has been destroyed, and, as one diplomat put it: ‘You sense the national spirit has been broken. There are so many beggars in Phnom Penh now, but you pass many other people and you know they are hungry and would like to beg, but it is the only shred of their self-respect they have left.'”

The struggle goes on, and this recent report by a leading British newspaper sums up the awfulness of life in Cambodia today.

Politically little has changed in Cambodia since our last letter. The Khmer Rouge (Cambodian communists, backed by the Vietcong and North Vietnamese) still hold large areas of the country while the government defends a series of outposts, major cities and the capital, Phnom Penh – about ten to twenty per cent of the land mass. Although over 80 per cent of the country is under insurgent control, 85 per cent of the people live in government controlled areas. The fact is that the large majority of Cambodians remain unconquered.

Day and night artillery and rocket attacks, more intense since Chinese New Year, have left large areas of the capital in ruins. Over two hundred have died in the shelling since Christmas, with hundreds injured, and in January over half the French population of 1,000 left Phnom Penh. All roads out of the city are cut and the price of a plane ticket to safer cities such as Battambang and Kampong Cham is out of reach of most Cambodians. There is no way out for the poor but to cross the front lines and no one is contemplating that. Food shortage, looting, inflated prices and student unrest all add to the troubles in Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge claim to have 14,000 troops and say they will continue bombarding the capital, attack Mekong River convoys and finally enter the city, but this last claim is not likely unless things rapidly deteriorate. As things are at present this stalemate could continue indefinitely as neither side has the resources to win an outright victory; it seems that Cambodia is in for a long and wasteful struggle for survival.

Normal life is difficult; most schools have had to shut down, especially those with French teachers. Many shops have been closed too and a strict curfew has existed for some weeks now. French doctors in Phnom Penh report that as a consequence of the privations of war, cases of night-blindness – induced by vitamin deficiencies – are appearing for the first time in Cambodia since medical records were started by the French in 1861.

Please pray. Humanly speaking little can be done to alleviate the situation, but we must ask God for deliverance and a second chance for a people who need to hear of the One who loves and died for them. The Khmer Christians need and should have our prayers, for grace and strength, wisdom and hope. Even in the most difficult situation God controls and the Holy Spirit is active. Cambodian believers have ample opportunity to share a living faith, made more real to them perhaps by the nature of their circumstances. When the American bombing was halted in August 1973, the Cambodian church fell on its knees before God in prayer and fasting for their nation. Christians believe that divine intervention has turned a despairing situation to one of hope and rejoicing – the hand of Almighty God, El Shaddai, is overshadowing Cambodia. Let us keep this in mind when we hear of all the negative elements in Cambodia. The National Church continues to be involved in practical ways, and co-operation with the government is good. The missionaries are planning to remain, and although women and children of missionaries had left Phnom Penh, women missionaries have now returned to continue their work. Reverend Merle Graven of the Christian and Missionary Alliance says, “Opportunities abound for an unlimited ministry. We are trusting for a great swell of prayer around the world for further miracles.”

During the week leading up to Christmas Day 1973 the Bible Shop in Phnom Penh put on a special window display of Bibles, portions and selections. Every day crowds of people gathered outside the shop to look at the window; these were mainly young folk and Buddhist monks. Nearly 6,000 copies of the Bible, portions and selections were sold in the week, in Khmer, French, English and Chinese. Many read them and came back for more, and over the whole week including free distribution 75,000 scriptures went out. Every Buddhist priest studying at the University has received a Bible. One Buddhist priest said recently, “You simply cannot read what the Bible says and believe that Jesus Christ was just an ordinary man.”

In a letter from Phnom Penh in January Taing Chhirc a Cambodian Christian wrote, “I thank the Lord for giving real opportunities to serve Him among our people at this time of harvest. Hungry souls have poured into our 15 churches in the capital each week, and there has been a shortage of Bibles for many months. We are running out of almost everything here, but not of the sweet love of Jesus our dear Lord and Saviour who is manifesting Himself mightily in our land.”

Forty Years Ago: Part 3

In the year leading up to the fortieth anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge on 17 April 1975 we are publishing extracts from the newsletters produced by Cambodia for Christ.

Newsletter 2, January 1974

These last months have seen various developments in Cambodia. The war situation is still extremely serious and no-one really knows how long this will last. Rocket and bomb attacks on the capital are frequent, and according to news reports over a third of the country – that lying east of the Mekong and bordering South Vietnam – has been annexed by the North Vietnamese who have settled the families of their soldiers in this area. With the Monsoon season over renewed activity may occur, and we need to pray very much for the political situation. In December a motion to recognise a government in exile under Prince Sihanouk as the Khmer representative at the United Nations was defeated by two votes and the question postponed until next year.

There are developments too in the life of the Church in Cambodia. Since freedom of worship was granted in 1970, through crusades and personal witness the National Church has grown from 200 professing believers to over 4,000, most of these being under the age of thirty. Opportunities for service are unlimited, though at the present time missionaries and national Christian workers are stretched to their limit. There has been steady and faithful progress by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C and MA) since they entered the country in 1923 and many areas of work have benefited by their ministry.

Christianity is now seen in a new light and the National Church has identified itself with the needs of the people and God has richly blessed in many ways. A Bible school has been established, literature though limited is being distributed, the Bible can be read in the Khmer language, a Christian bookshop has been opened in the capital, and eight churches now exist there. Some Christian radio and television programmes have also been received in the last years.

The capital city of Phnom Penh, previously with a population of 600,000, is now bursting with over a million refugees. This creates enormous problems of overcrowding, and disease and hunger are widespread. From the beginning the Church has been involved in practical relief for refugees. This has produced a lot of goodwill and helped to convince the Government and the Buddhist people that Christians do care. Because of overcrowding the only aid which can be given is direct supplies of food, clothing and medical supplies as there is not room for the people to work their own fields and provide a normal living for their families. The contact through material aid has also led to a liberal distribution of literature accompanied on occasions by songs, testimony and explanation of the Gospel. This has been an effective means of leading some to Christ.

A visitor wrote this account of what he saw in Cambodia. “I saw refugees by the thousands who have recently fled the terrifying scenes of battle. Bewilderment and confusion cloud their normally happy faces. I saw children by the hundreds who have been turned into homeless orphans overnight. These touched me the deepest. As I beheld the suffering of the gentle Khmer people, I had a hard time believing that part of the world is saying, ‘Let’s wait and see if this little country can survive,'”

In the crowded refugee camps 7 or 8 children die nightly from diseases related to malnutrition. About forty miles away from Phnom Penh in a camp called Kraing Poltep, 9,000 refugee families are living. Adults and children work to clear the land so they can plant crops.

World Vision, an American society, have undertaken the construction of new villages for the homeless, and in the capital the first 100 resettlement homes have been completed. An estimated 17,000 orphans exist in Cambodia, many of whom are crowded into refugee camps and in the crush of people it is impossible to find out who have families. Others camp out together in the open, cooking what they have to eat over open fires. Local rice is no longer available in Cambodia, although the Americans recently brought in 50,000 tons, enough for two months. Beans and vegetables are fast becoming a staple diet.

Medical aid is being given by a small C and MA team who are giving assistance to the existing government hospitals and are working among the refugees. Contacts and opportunities to witness are many and Khmer doctors as well as patients have listened to the Good News of Jesus.

Finally, a letter received from a Christian in Phnom Penh had this to say. “Thank you so much for your letter which gave us real comfort knowing that you are still remembering us in prayer.” Thank you for standing with Cambodia and our brethren there. Your prayers can achieve more than any army could – will you continue to uphold the Church in that land – that a bulwark will be made against the forces of darkness and the light of the gospel of Christ penetrate many hearts while there is day?