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Cablegate: Phnom Penh's Chinese Sex Tourism Industry

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1. (U) Summary. Typically shrouded behind legitimate
businesses, Phnom Penh's sex establishments catering to the
Chinese operate relatively discretely. Generally, Chinese
men come to Phnom Penh for business reasons, not for the
purpose of sex tourism. Chinese clientele refrain from the
low-end brothels used by average Cambodians, preferring
karaoke bars and massage parlors that cater to the Chinese.
Some of these establishments have girls suspected of being
trafficked from Vietnam and increasingly from China; numbers
of underage girls present are hard to estimate, but girls as
young as 14-15 years of age are not uncommon. Debt bondage
draws some Chinese sex workers to Cambodia. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Chinese-speaking Pol/Econ intern and Poleconoff of
Asian descent surveyed various Phnom Penh sex establishments
posing as customers. Information was gathered by asking
Chinese businessmen, hostesses, and managers about
Chinese-speaking visitors to Cambodia, and how they factor
into the trafficking for sex industry in Cambodia.

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Catering to Chinese Sex Tourism

3. (U) An estimated 72,000 Chinese-speaking foreigners came
to Cambodia from Mainland China and Taiwan in the first six
months of 2006, making them second only to Koreans in the
number of visitors to Cambodia. Most Chinese sex customers
come to Phnom Penh on business and engage in commercial sex
as a diversion. Local business associates sometimes take
their clients to these locales to "experience" Cambodia. As
in Chinese business etiquette, business partners associates
have an obligation to make sure that the clients are
satisfied with their stay in Cambodia. Often, business
associates encourage foreign clients to sleep with a woman,
based on a bawdy saying that someone does not "know" a
country until he has had sex with its women.

4. (U) The Chinese do not typically like to receive sexual
services at local brothels. The small, cramped, and often
dirty facilities deter Chinese clients from taking advantage
of the comparatively cheaper services. Instead, they prefer
to choose cleaner, high-end facilities such as hotels,
massage parlors, and karaoke bars. Many of these businesses
have separate VIP rooms which customers can rent and use for
sexual activities. Prices range from USD 20 to USD 150
depending on the type of service and ethnicity of the girl.

Karaoke Bars: More Than Just Songs

5. (U) Sexual service in Cambodia is almost synonymous with
karaoke bars. These bars are typically located in hotels and
are intended to entertain resident guests. Some are located
within an arcade-like mall or within an entertainment
complex. Though sexual services are not blatantly
advertised, the exteriors are distinctive and recognizable to
Asian male clientele. Depending on the karaoke bar, room
charges can either be calculated by hourly fees or by drinks.
Female company for drinks can be purchased for approximately
five dollars per hour.

6. (U) Most hostesses are not just hired for karaoke
company, but prostituted by the owners. After the customers
are seated, a manager parades a line-up of girls from which
the customer may choose. The girls wear seductive apparel
and often have a numerical badge to which the customer can
refer when choosing girls. Nightly rates are approximately
USD 40 for Khmer, USD 50 for Vietnamese, and USD 150 for
Chinese girls. At one bar, the manager tried to sell her
daughter to Emboffs. Once paid for, the girls can be taken
to a hotel for sexual services; tipping is discretionary.

Massage Parlors with Special Services

7. (U) Though there are reputable massage establishments in
Phnom Penh, many businesses also provide sexual services.
These parlors are typically distinguished by blackened
windows, gaudy exterior lights and suggestive advertisements.
Some of these girls are trafficked, while others work of
their own volition. Parlors charge approximately seven
dollars an hour for room rental, but sexual services are
negotiated with the girl. Most girls charge between USD
10-20 with a portion going to the parlor owner.

PHNOM PENH 00001406 002 OF 003

8. (SBU) As is typical of Southeast Asia, the massage
parlors are often equipped with a "fish bowl" viewing room.
A large glass window divides the viewing room from the
fishbowl with the girls on display. Girls wearing scantily
clad outfits and number badges sit in rows. Their ages
typically range from 15-27 years old. Some parlors clothe
their girls by ethnicity. One parlor had Khmer girls wearing
pink, Vietnamese in yellow, Chinese in red, and Russians in
plain clothes. Chinese and European women tend to be seen as
most desirable (and therefore more expensive) because of
their rarity in Phnom Penh, we suspect some of the foreign
girls of being trafficking victims but estimating a
percentage is difficult.

9. (U) Customers sit on couches and are served drinks as
they choose a girl. After the client decides on a number, he
notifies the manager who then calls out the number. The girl
enters the viewing room and leads the customer to a private
room for massage and possibly sex. Condom usage is suggested
but reportedly negotiable.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Techno Music, Drugs, and Girls: Chinese Night Clubs
--------------------------------------------- -------

10. (U) Chinese night clubs are the newest fad in Phnom
Penh and growing in popularity with Chinese tourists. Phnom
Penh boasts three main Chinese night clubs: the Shanghai
Beach Club at the Phnom Penh Hotel, the Casa Club, and the
Holiday Hotel's Manhattan Club. Chinese-speaking men fill
these venues after midnight, usually with their friends or
business associates. Chinese-speaking Pol/econ intern
observed that most of the girls were either Vietnamese,
Chinese, or Sino-Khmer. Once a customer enters the club,
either a manager ("mamasan") or hostess will approach and
inquire if the customer wants company. Rates are negotiated
and girls can serve as hostesses, dancing partners, or even
bedroom company. Costs typically range from USD 10-50
depending on the girl and extent of relationship.

11. (U) Once entering the club, customers can find an
assortment of drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamines (ya
ba/ya ma) and cocaine sold by either the girls working at the
club or independent sellers. Pol/econ intern noticed that
almost all of the Chinese patrons appeared to be high on
drugs, as were their female companions. Security guards
screen customers for weapons, but questionable substances
were openly available and in use in these establishments.

Foreign Sex Workers in Phnom Penh

12. (SBU) Chinese sex workers are more prevalent now in
Phnom Penh than in the past several years. A handful of
Chinese girls can be found in almost all of the high-end
karaoke bars and massage parlors. One worker told Emboffs
she started working at the massage club because she owed USD
10,000 in China, and had come to Phnom Penh to work off the
debt as a prostitute. Originally from southern China's
Fujian province, she makes over USD 1,000 a month, and plans
to pay back the debt within a year. She said she first
started working in a karaoke bar, but because she did not
like to drink alcoholic beverages she moved to the massage
parlor where she could make money without having to drink.
She claimed that many Chinese sex-workers like herself have
entered into agreements to come to Cambodia to work off
debts. After she pays her debt, she will purchase an
airplane ticket and fly back to China. (Note: A former
AFESIP staff member said she encountered a similar situation
after police conducted a brothel raid. Four Chinese sex
workers were found to have three-year work visas in their
passports. End note.) Another Chinese sex worker,
college-educated, claimed that she was from Dalian in
northeastern China. Sharing a similar background, she has a
network of friends in analogous professions working in
Thailand and Malaysia. Those countries will be her next
destinations after she finishes working in Cambodia.

13. (SBU) Though much rarer than Chinese workers, Russian
sex-workers can be found in Phnom Penh. Pol/econoff and
Pol/Econ intern observed Russian sex-workers in a few massage
parlors and at a Chinese night club. At the karaoke club,
two Russian females were offered for sexual services. The
manager asked for approximately USD 120 to take home a
Russian girl for the entire night.

PHNOM PENH 00001406 003 OF 003

14. (SBU) Comment. Within Cambodia's sex tourism industry,
those facilities catering to Asian men have been largely
uncharted territory for this Mission as well as for many in
the NGO community, given the lack of personnel with Chinese
language capability. Interestingly, establishments geared
for Chinese men are not frequented by large numbers of Korean
or Japanese customers. Chinese-speaking hostesses rarely
entertained customers other than ethnic Chinese; no
Westerners were encountered by Emboffs during their visits.
It was difficult to assess the extent of human trafficking in
these establishments, as girls are invariably coached to give
their ages as 18-20 years to avoid police raids. Only after
Emboffs had engaged girls in conversation were they able to
ascertain that some girls were as young as 14-15 years of
age. The issue of debt bondage among Chinese sex workers and
the growing numbers of girls coming to Cambodia from China
for sex work were also new aspects to the sex tourism
industry in Cambodia. End Comment.

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