1 Brothels, Sex Workers and Torture 1/09 (background story)
January 1, 2009 – New York Times
The Evil Behind the Smiles–Brothels, Sex Workers and Torture
by Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Western men who visit red-light districts in poor countries often find themselves surrounded by coquettish teenage girls laughingly tugging them toward the brothels. The men assume that the girls are there voluntarily, and in some cases they are right. But anyone inclined to take the girls’ smiles at face value should talk to Sina Vann, who was once one of those smiling girls. Sina is Vietnamese but was kidnapped at the age of 13 and taken to Cambodia, where she was drugged. She said she woke up naked and bloody on a bed with a white man — she doesn’t know his nationality — who had purchased her virginity.
After that, she was locked on the upper floors of a nice hotel and offered to Western men and wealthy Cambodians. She said she was beaten ferociously to force her to smile and act seductive. “My first phrase in Khmer,” the Cambodian language, “was, ‘I want to sleep with you,’ ” she said. “My first phrase in English was” — well, it’s unprintable.
Sina mostly followed instructions and smiled alluringly at men because she would have been beaten if men didn’t choose her. But sometimes she was in such pain that she resisted, and then she said she would be dragged down to a torture chamber in the basement. “Many of the brothels have these torture chambers,” she said. “They are underground because then the girls’ screams are muffled.”
As in many brothels, the torture of choice was electric shocks. Sina would be tied down, doused in water and then prodded with wires running from the 220-volt wall outlet. The jolt causes intense pain, sometimes evacuation of the bladder and bowel — and even unconsciousness. Shocks fit well into the brothel business model because they cause agonizing pain and terrify the girls without damaging their looks or undermining their market value.
After the beatings and shocks, Sina said she would be locked naked in a wooden coffin full of biting ants. The coffin was dark, suffocating and so tight that she could not move her hands up to her face to brush off the ants. Her tears washed the ants out of her eyes. She was locked in the coffin for a day or two at a time, and she said this happened many, many times. Finally, Sina was freed in a police raid, and found herself blinded by the first daylight she had seen in years. The raid was organized by Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who herself had been sold into the brothels but managed to escape, educate herself and now heads a foundation fighting forced prostitution.
After being freed, Sina began studying and eventually became one of Somaly’s trusted lieutenants. They now work together, in defiance of death threats from brothel owners, to free other girls. To get at Somaly, the brothel owners kidnapped and brutalized her 14-year-old daughter. And six months ago, the daughter of another anti-trafficking activist (my interpreter when I interviewed Sina) went missing. I had heard about torture chambers under the brothels but had never seen one, so a few days ago Sina took me to the red-light district here where she once was imprisoned. A brothel had been torn down, revealing a warren of dungeons underneath.
“I was in a room just like those,” she said, pointing. “There must be many girls who died in those rooms.” She grew distressed and added: “I’m cold and afraid. Tonight I won’t sleep.” “Photograph quickly,” she added, and pointed to brothels lining the street. “It’s not safe to stay here long.” Sina and Somaly sustain themselves with a wicked sense of humor. They tease each other mercilessly, with Sina, who is single, mock-scolding Somaly: “At least I had plenty of men until you had to come along and rescue me!”
Sex trafficking is truly the 21st century’s version of slavery. One of the differences from 19th-century slavery is that many of these modern slaves will die of AIDS by their late 20s.
Whenever I report on sex trafficking, I come away less depressed by the atrocities than inspired by the courage of modern abolitionists like Somaly and Sina. They are risking their lives to help others still locked up in the brothels, and they have the credibility and experience to lead this fight. In my next column, I’ll introduce a girl that Sina is now helping to recover from mind-boggling torture in a brothel — and Sina’s own story gives hope to the girl in a way that an army of psychologists couldn’t.
I hope that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will recognize slavery as unfinished business on the foreign policy agenda. The abolitionist cause simply hasn’t been completed as long as 14-year-old girls are being jolted with electric shocks — right now, as you read this — to make them smile before oblivious tourists.
February 13, 2009 – PinkNews.co.uk
Cambodia to ban foreign gays from adopting children
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
New rules on foreign adoption in Cambodia will ban a range of foreigners from the process. Gay people, single people, those on a "low income" and those who already have two children will not be able to adopt. In meetings with Jean Paul Monchau, the French official responsible for overseeing international adoptions, Cambodian officials expressed concern about the "potential psychological effects" of adoptions by these groups, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
If a proposed law on adoption is approved by the National Assembly it will codify these exclusions. It will also make it legal for parents to put their children up for aoption – at present only orphans are eligible for foreign adoption. Homosexual acts are legal in Cambodia, and in 2004 the King expressed support for same-sex marriage. The concept of sexuality as understood in Western culture has little meaning in Cambodia and as a result many people who have sex with people of the same gender do not identify as "gay" or "bisexual."
A gay community has emerged in the past ten years, and the first Pride event was held in Phnom Penh in 2003. During the 1970s the Khmer Rouge destroyed Cambodian society, killing educated people and forcing city dwellers into the countryside to work the land. During their reign of terror they discarded Western medicine, destroyed temples and libraries. More than one million people died. As a result Cambodia was left with many orphans, widows, and single-parent families.
Violence and poltical instability in the years following the overthrown of the Khmer Rouge meant that 1999 was the first full year of peace in 30 years.
January 13, 2009 – Phnom Penh Pride
We are very thrilled to announce that Cambodia’s GLBT community will have reason to come out and celebrate at Phnom Penh Pride 2009!
There will be various events taking place all over the city from the 11th to 17th May 2009, coinciding with International Day Against Homophobia 2009.
Pontoon will be hosting the Official Pride Party on Saturday the 16th with a fabulous show and dancing til the early hours.
Other events will include:
Film screenings at the Meta House
Workshops on gay and lesbian issues
Events at Salt Lounge and Blue Chilli Bar
Please keep checking this page to get all the updates and make sure you don’t miss out any of the fun!
Phnom Penh Pride will definitely be a pride to remember! We have a lovely team of busy bees working very hard to make sure we have a fab time! If you would like to support Phnom Penh Pride 2009, there are a number of ways…We need DJs and caterers and bar staff, printers, artists, workshop facilitators…so please do offer your services!We are looking for acts to perform during the day,so if you’re talented – let us know! Singers, dancers, drag artists and all sorts are needed :o) Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does go a long way to make a fab pride- if you can sponsor us, or know anyone who can we would appreciate it so much!Most of all we need lots of gorgeous gays, lady loving lesbians, beautiful bisexuals, tremendous transgendered types and happy heteros (and all in between and anyone who is proud!) to come out this May and help us make this Phnom Penh Pride, the best ever.
23 March 2009 – The Phnom Penh Post
A gay-friendlier Kingdom
by Brendan Brady
Cambodia’s openness to homosexuality contributes to its growing reputation as a destination where gay tourists can travel without fear of prejudice. From tastefully decorated gay-owned restaurants where "the all-male staff are gorgeous and friendly" to spas frequented by gay expats that guarantee an "absolutely magic" massage from male masseurs, Utopia Asia tips gay travellers to Siem Reap. While a far cry from Thailand’s Phuket Island, where Speedo-clad beefcakes paint an exuberant scene, Cambodia is offering an increasing number of venues catering to gay travellers.
"People living here have a very open approach to gay people. That’s been recognised, and so more gay travellers are coming here," said Dutch national Dirk Degraass, who designed and manages the aptly named Golden Banana guesthouse in Siem Reap. He says the number of gay travellers in Siem Reap, the jump-off hub to tour the temples of Angkor Wat, has steadily risen over the three years he has lived in Cambodia. To keep pace with demand, the boutique guest house has expanded twice, mostly recently opening a third addition three months ago.
Even venues that have made no effort to attract gay customers seem to be benefiting from Cambodia’s growing reputation as a destination where gay people can travel without experiencing prejudice. La Veranda Resort in the coastal town of Kep receives a steady stream of gay tourists, according to its manager, Craig Pollard.
"You can come here and feel there’s no problem; you can feel no one will look down on you," said the Australian.
Laurent Notin, with Indochina Research, which has offices in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, said Cambodia is well-suited to cultivating a niche tourism market to target specific demographics, as the country has yet to draw the numbers of a major tourism destination. Big companies are unlikely to come and push them out," he said, referring to the prospects of small hotels trying to attract gay travellers. "And niche markets are often lucrative – a small, but focussed, market can be very profitable."
A tough tourism year
In dismal economic times, any growth market may be worth jumping on. Tourism Ministry officials earlier this month announced that January tourist arrivals dropped by more than 2 percent compared with the same period last year – a sign that a key economic driver is flagging in the face of the global economic downturn. Looking to keep people interested in travel even as their budgets shrink, a US-based travel company catering to gay travellers sees promise in Cambodia. Last month, it opened a new tour of Southeast Asia that includes Cambodia, along with Thailand and Laos.
Howie Holben, head of Spirit Journeys, bills his tours as "spiritually uplifting gay travel" and says he has found Cambodia to be a "very accepting environment". The company is tapping into a destination that has largely gone under the radar, but that is already registering as a rising star. For Purple Dragon, Asia’s longest-running travel company tailored to gay travellers – with routes to eight countries in the region – Cambodia is the second-most popular destination behind Thailand, according to Douglas Thompson, managing director of the company’s headquarters in Bangkok.
Holben distinguished his tours from those of other gay travel companies. "Typically, there would be gay-oriented experiences like going out to gay nightclubs," he said. "But we’re not going to experience gay life. We are just offering to the gay community the opportunity for a spiritual journey." Spirit Journey’s three-week trips, the first kicking off in November, focus on historical sites and include meditation exercises. The visit to Cambodia is dedicated to the Angkor temples around Siem Reap. And for the time being, observers see Cambodia’s "pink" tourism tailored more to ensuring accepting spaces than to providing lively spots for socialising.
Craig Duncan is on his fourth trip to Cambodia. For the 40-year-old from Australia, it is an "absolute priority" to search for the availability of gay-oriented venues before travelling somewhere – and Cambodia has fit the bill. "Going online and finding gay-friendly places made a big difference. I was able to find out Cambodia would be a good place even before I got here," he said. For Duncan, a gay-friendly hotel means "if you meet someone, you can take them back there, or if you’re travelling with you’re partner, they don’t try to put you in different beds."
His impression has remained positive. He says he has not experienced an insult or any incidents of discrimination in the nearly five weeks he has spent in Cambodia as a tourist. In Southeast Asia, he observed, there is a sense of intimacy among people of the same sex that is comforting for gay visitors to see. Duncan said the "services" for gay travellers have expanded along with the growing number of gay travellers to Cambodia. He has noticed a growth in the number of male prostitutes, or "money boys", in nightclubs in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
But the scene remains limited, he said, and he was eager to see Cambodia become livelier in its nightlife – bars and dance clubs – for gay visitors. Phnom Penh has a handful of gay bars, and Siem Reap offers a few gay-friendly watering holes, but it is a low-key scene compared with the globe’s most storied gay destinations.
As Duncan put it, a gay destination in Thailand "would mean more".
And travel writer Nick Ray says it will likely stay that way for the near future. Ray has authored Lonely Planet guides for Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and other countries in the region. There has been a doubling of venues catering to gay visitors in Cambodia over the last three years, he’s observed, but he thought the scene would remain subdued compared to that of some of its neighbour.
"It’s following the Thai pattern more than the pattern of some of its conservative neighbours – like Vietnam, where it’s considered a social evil – but I don’t think it will reach the scale of Thailand."
Govt position unpredictable
Ray doubted there would be a public outcry if Cambodia’s tourism scene for gay travellers became more pervasive and visible, but he said the possibility of a government backlash was difficult to predict. "All it takes is one or two senior officials to decide they don’t like it." But, at the moment, it’s off the radar, he said.
With a former king, Norodom Sihanouk, who has been a vocal supporter of equal rights and same-sex partners, no history of homophobia among the public and no laws against homosexuality, local tourism operators have a supportive backdrop to carve out a space specifically for gay travellers. But for the time being, Cambodia’s official line, if there is one at all, oscillates. Tourism Minister Thon Khong would only say he had not reflected on the prospect.
The Cambodian Association of Travel Agents would not consider promoting Cambodia as a gay-friendly tourism destination, said one of the group’s top representatives, Ho Vandy. He was adamant, however, that hotels should not be allowed to turn away customers because of their sexual orientation. He said tour operators were not opposed to gay visitors coming, but a campaign to woo them was out of question. "We have a traditional culture, and we don’t want foreigners promoting homosexuality [amongst Cambodians] in our country, but for gay foreigners who wish to visit Cambodia, that is OK."
Nick Ray saw it differently. He said the extent that Cambodia continues growing as a destination for gay travellers could largely depend on the attitudes of local people towards homosexuality. "If more Cambodians come out, it will create a synergy that could have the industry take off."
10 August 2009 – Phnom Penh Post
HIV/AIDS crisis looming among gay men: report
by Nathan Green
Failure to earmark sufficient funds for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men is a ‘crime against humanity’, sparked by bias, that could have fatal consequences, experts say. Out of almost US$4 billion invested in Asia over the past five years, less than $100 million has been allocated to the MSM community, according to Dr Sawarup Sarkar of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "There’s a whole political and social bias against this population," he told the Post.
The Commission on AIDS in Asia has estimated that Cambodia needs to spend $500,000 per year on prevention efforts in order to reach 80 percent of the most at-risk portion of its gay community, but the country spent nothing last year, Sarkar said.
"Cambodia is the highest-invested country in the region, with almost $5 per capita [allocated by donors for HIV-prevention efforts], but there is zero allocation to the MSM population," he said. "We are not funding enough the most at-risk communities." Shivananda Khan, chairman of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), said the failure of national governments to allocate resources to their MSM and transgender communities constitutes "a crime against humanity".
Addressing a forum on HIV in gay communities in Bali, Indonesia, at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, Khan said: "194 MSM and transgender people are getting infected with HIV every day. With the level of services and with the level of coverage, what hope do they have in terms of accessing treatment, care, support or even prevention? That is not only shocking, it is shameful: It is a form almost of genocide. It is a crime against humanity.
"The only way we can win this battle is if we work together and stand shoulder to shoulder to address the crisis so this genocide stops. We have the technology and the evidence to stop it, and enough is enough. What we are dealing with is a crisis in human lives." Although the HIV prevalence rate among MSM in Cambodia is lower than in neighbouring Thailand and Myanmar, the country is nearing a crucial tipping point, the UN has warned.
New infections could rapidly spiral out of control unless the government does more to educate the community about how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS, the UN’s joint programme on AIDS and HIV.
"Asia and the Pacific is on the brink of a large increase in new infections among MSMs if risk behaviours of low condom use and many concurrent male partners stay at current levels," JVR Prasada Rao, Asia and the Pacific regional director for UNAIDS, told the forum. "The [Commission on AIDS in Asia] has predicted that if business as usual continues, by 2020, men who have sex with men and transgenders will be the largest segment of infected people in Asia."
Frits Van Griensven, chief of behavioural research at the US Centre for Disease Control, said the Cambodian government must "act now" to avert catastrophe. "If you are late acting, it will be too late, and the prevalence will be too difficult to bring down," he told the forum. Prevention efforts should also address the social challenges facing MSM and transgender people, said Griensven, citing links between binge drinking, drug use, a history of coercive sex, suicidal thoughts and social isolation with failure to use condoms during sex.
"We shouldn’t be targeting HIV in isolation, but in the context of the social conditions people live in," he said. Funding should be allocated to peer education, treatment of non-HIV sexually transmitted infections, distribution of condoms and lubricants, and advocacy to decriminalise the community and remove the stigma surrounding MSM, said Global Fund‘s Sarkar.
He said the people most at risk, which represent up to 25 percent of the MSM community, are male sex workers and transgender people, who are most likely to have receptive sex. People who frequent cruising spots are also considered high-risk.
The latest statistics suggest that 8.7 percent of MSM in Phnom Penh are HIV-positive. The study, which dates from 2007, estimates prevalence among the transgender community to be as high as 17 percent. HIV prevalence among people ages 15-49 in Cambodia stood at 0.9 percent, or 67,200 people, in 2007. This was down from 1.2 percent in 2003, UNAIDS figures show.
One of the most alarming trends in the epidemiological data is the high rate of infection among the youngest segments of the MSM and transgender communities. A recent study in Thailand followed 1,000 HIV-negative MSM for three years. During that time, 20 percent contracted HIV. Among those aged between 18 and 22, the infection rate was 30 percent.
The Commission on AIDS in Asia estimated that $3 billion was needed every year in Asia to reach 80 percent of positive people, 80 percent of people at high risk of contracting HIV and 80 percent of affected families. However, just $1 billion was available last year from major public sources, leaving a $2 billion shortfall. Programmes targeting MSM required $300 million per year, it said, but only $20 million to $40 million was spent, mostly from the Global Fund. The government could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
January 14th, 2010 – Global Voices
Cambodia: Bloggers discuss LGBT issues
by Sopheap Chak
LGBT issues are not openly discussed in Cambodian mainstream society but they are being debated in the blogosphere. A leading example is Gay Khmer group , a website which was established to create a public platform for gay issues. This network is written in Khmer and English. The aim of GK is to raise awareness about gays and their rights, to unite in the fight against homophobia, to provide information access to gay and bi people about news updates on lifestyle, rights, education, health, sex, love…, and to serve as platform for experience sharing and solution exploration.
Through this blog network, many gender issues were tackled among members and commentators who voiced anxiety and doubt such as Hidden Face , When I Realized Being Gay , Is It True that Gays Love only Sex . There is also another blog activist, Sobin , whose blog is dedicated to be a forum for sharing the life stories of gays. The header of his blog conveys a meaningful and interesting slogan: “No mater what gender you are…love is always beautiful.”
Interestingly, last year Cambodia celebrated its first ever Cambodian lesbian film, “Who Am I?” directed by Mrs. Phoan Phuong Bopha, whose movie attracted an estimated 4,000 viewers, which AFP  called as a blockbuster for the country’s tiny movie industry. This film is part of an awareness raising campaign against lesbian discrimination in the country. This year, another LGBT film will be shown soon: “High School Love Story.” The film’s story centers on a gay love affair.
In her post about “High School Love Story: Cambodia’s Gay Film,”  Kounila Keo , a prominent Cambodian blogher, expresses her excitement to see this upcoming film and highlights the obstacles confronting gay people in society:
Certainly, I am looking forward to watching “High School Love Story”. I don’t really think this is a new issue. Gays and lesbians have always been in Cambodia. I understand why they have been hiding themselves from society. A lot of discrimination is going on everywhere against homosexuals or same-sex lovers. Gays and lesbians should really have their own rights to express themselves in whatever way.
Besides films, blogs have become venues that address LGBT concerns. Young bloggers belonging to Khmer Youth Writers  also use their personal websites to highlight LGBT issues. “Boy Friend” is a 2009 Khmer novel written by Archphkai or Asteroid , a promising Cambodian writer. In his free book distribution campaign, the author asked the readers to answer an interesting question:
What is your expression about same-sex love (gays/lesbians)? – Most of those who responded have positive views on the issue:
It is not a mistake to love someone. Male same-sex love is just one type of love. It is not bad if it brings happiness. Accepting the truth is better than hiding the fact. Those who do not acknowledge this type of love is lying to themselves. Yet, it is bad if they treat love for only sex. True love is the greatest thing.
On the contrary, a Facebook user, Tauch Narin , launched a debate late last year on gay rights by updating his status with a question “Do You Support Gay Rights in Cambodia? It generated many contrasting comments. A facebook commenter emphasizes that gays are humans with human rights: “They are not monsters,they are humans, and if humans have rights, why not gays and lesbians? They just have different preference from us.” Another commenter has a different view: “It’s sounds reasonable. But the truth is it’s sinful.”
Narin continued the debate by outlining the idea that one may become gay by association factor. While acknowledging that everybody has rights, Narin insisted that “freedom does not always allow one to do whatever they like” by comparing the choice to be gay or lesbian to the choice of others to be criminals or drug addicts: People choose to be a gay or lesbian because they are addicted to such sexual behavior. Just like drug addicts, no easy way to get rid of. Naturally people are born to be male and female as indicated by gender organ. Tell me if there were any other types of gender organ?
Stereotype is the main factor that spread homosexual culture. If someone associates with criminals, he would become criminal himself. If a person associates with drug addicts, he would become a drug addict too. If a person associates with homosexual person, he would be one of them.
This statement attracted more reactions which forced Narin to clarify his position:
I do respect their rights and dignity as human beings…they are human beings, they deserve our acknowledgment and protection. Of course we can’t change people personality, we have to accept it even though we do not like it personally. My concern is the move to support their right to marry. It is the fundamental pillar of gender. The right to marry and have family of their own. Can u imagine how would it look like?
February 2010 – GK Official Blog
GK Network is a social website which was created on Ning for Cambodian gay and bi guys. The network aims to create a good environment for guys who are looking for socialising with other open and hidden gay and bi guys nationwide. So far, GK has more and more members to join and share their idea about their lives via the modern technology. Actually, GK network is not a public networking website (Contents inside GK cannot be viewed publicly only its members can access all of its elements.) as most of our members are hiding their real identity. GK has decided to create a blog for public view and it will be posted everything related to gays (some of its posts may contain inappropriate contents). GK blog is acting in order to:
– raise awarness of straight people about gays and their rights
– unite to fight against homophobia
– meet gay and bi people demands (provide news, information, ideas about gay lifestyle, rights, education, health, sex, love…)
– be a good place for gays bi and straights people to share their own experiences
– find a good solution sharing by public for our members’ problems…etc.
We are proud to launch this blog and also sorry for any unintentional mistakes. Please you feel free to criticize us constructionally via email.
March 21, 2010 – The New York Times
By Ancient Ruins, a Gay Haven in Cambodia
by Naomi Lindt
IT was 10 p.m. in Siem Reap, and while most tourists were tucked in after a long, hot day exploring the temples of Angkor, things were just getting going at a bar called Linga. Pairs of European men in their 30s and 40s wearing unbuttoned collared shirts and checkered krama scarves sipped fruity cocktails and jostled for space with the young Khmer crowd, who huddled around small tables in anticipation of the main event: the Saturday night drag show.
A statuesque Khmer performer who went by the name Beyoncé took to the stage draped in a black, body-skimming floor-length gown and wearing a blond Afro wig. Soon, everyone was on his feet, belting out a song from “Dreamgirls.” The traffic outside literally stopped. Curious travelers, Khmer families and little girls peddling red roses craned their necks to get a better view as the song’s syrupy melody wafted into the jasmine-scented evening air.
Homosexual acts are not outlawed in Cambodia, as they are in a few Southeast Asian countries, but outward displays of affection and untraditional lifestyles are rare. Yet in Siem Reap, a small town that gets about a million tourists a year, gay visitors and locals are carving out a little haven. In the last few years, a small flurry of gay-friendly bars, restaurants and hotels has opened up in the city’s center and beyond, with wink-wink names like the Golden Banana and Cockatoo.
The scene is bolstered partly by Web sites like Cambodia Out, which started in early 2009 and is believed to be the first commercial site in the country devoted to the gay community. Other sites like Utopia (utopia-asia.com) and Sticky Rice (stickyrice.ws), which appeal to gay people throughout Southeast Asia, have also raised the city’s profile.
But the new spots also reflect a growing acceptance, in a country that still hews to age-old Khmer values and where the concept of homosexuality seemed nonexistent until recently. In fact, there is no word for “gay” in Khmer. The most commonly used term is kteuy or ladyboys, based on the misperception by many Cambodians that homosexuals and transvestites are one and the same.
The stereotypes are slowly fading. In 2004, after watching thousands of same-sex couples in San Francisco rush to the altar, Cambodia’s much-loved King Norodom Sihanouk wrote on his Web site that gays should be allowed to marry because God loved a “wide range of tastes.”
His successor and son, King Norodom Sihamoni, holds similar views. “The Cambodian Royal Family, as a whole, share the same point of view as the King-Father,” Sisowath Thomico, a spokesman for the royal family, wrote in an e-mail message. “We’ve always been very tolerant about sexual preferences as some Khmer Royals are/were openly gays/lesbians.”
May 2010 – Cambodia Out
Cambodia Out is a Gay and Lesbian community
Cambodia Out is a Gay and Lesbian community based website. It is designed to provide information about the vibrant gay community in the Kingdom of Cambodia. We try to provide a service to the Khmer and expat LGBT community, as well as to the tourists that are visiting here. We try our best to keep up with all the changes in venues throughout the Kingdom, if you know of any new venues or those that may have closed down, please let us know. If you have any events, posters or photo’s, please send them to us, we will be happy to post them.
What? You never knew there was a gay community in Cambodia? The GLBT Community is alive and thriving in Cambodia (The Kingdom of Wonder). Khmer gays are not oppressed by the government and homosexuality is legal. There are very strict laws about underage sex, don’t get caught! The younger generation seems to be very open about their sexuality, and the expat community is very out and supportive of the gay community. Bars, pubs, disco’s, nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries, spas, saunas, tour guides, travel companies, guesthouses and resorts all gay owned or managed. Many of the discos and nightclubs are mixed but the gays know where to gather. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia has the most diverse GLBT community. Siem Reap, where the World Heritage Site, Angkor Wat is, has a great selection of guesthouses and resorts, and several great gay pubs and restaurants. Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia is starting to come alive, with a few gay owned pubs, restaurants and a gay resort. If it is the beach you want, then head down to Sihanoukville or Kep, both have a gay resort. The currency most welcomed is the US dollar and the Cambodian riel. The dollar is accepted almost everywhere, but quite often the change will come back in riel. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels in the major cities. Be sure to carry small notes of riel and $1 dollars for the motorcycle taxis and most street vendors.
July 2010 – MSM Asia
Cambodia Pride 2010 – “Love who we are!” – Cambodia celebrates International Day against Homophobia
International Day against Homophobia has been held on the 17th May every year since 2005 and denounces homophobia and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people all over the world. In over 80 countries worldwide homosexuality is still illegal and in several of these countries the punishment may be death. Last year, Cambodians celebrated their fourth LGBT Pride celebration in May to coincide with IDAHO 2009. This was the first year we had a week of activities aimed to strengthen the LGBT community, build self esteem and provide a safe space for socializing. There is no law against same-sex relationships in Cambodia; neither does the law recognize marriage between same-sex partners.
LGBT people in Cambodia are often surrounded by stigma and subject to discrimination with regards to employment and housing; they can also find themselves isolated from their communities and families. Although men who have sex with men (MSM) are more visible with support from HIV/AIDS NGOs lesbians have remained, until recently, largely invisible and underrepresented in society. It can also be seen as problematic that programs targeted at MSM are focused on health and behavior and less on identity.
Many gay men and transgender (TG) women do not identify with the term MSM as it includes TG who identify as women and focuses on sex as opposed to love, identity, community and all the other aspects of sexuality.
15 November 2010 – Fridae
Cambodia’s first gay town
by Terry McCoy, GlobalPost
Make no mistake: This is not a place to celebrate sexuality. This is a place for survival.Along the train tracks in one of Phnom Penh’s ubiquitous slums, the noise never stops and everything is changing. Longtime residents are fearful that they’ll soon have to move. This place isn’t safe anymore, they say. It isn’t moral anymore.
Along these same tracks, roughly 100 new residents, in search of asylum and community, have trickled in over the last several years and now lead lives of shocking desperation. Most of them only sleep during the day. Some perform acts of prostitution. Others dress as women. Almost all of them are homosexual men. And this place, Beoung Kak 2, has become a home: Cambodia’s first gay town.
But this isn’t Boystown in Chicago, nor the Castro in San Francisco. This isn’t a place where homosexuals can celebrate sexuality, individuality, love. Make no mistake: It’s a place for survival. Every month more newcomers arrive, and as this community expands and supplants longtime residents, it represents both a burgeoning confidence among Cambodia’s gay population, as well as the difficulties that lie ahead for homosexuals here struggling for acceptance and equality.
As two worlds converge and clash in Beoung Kak 2, each seems allegoric, as though re-enacting a bigger national issue. The young, radically sexual newcomers stand juxtaposed against a traditional set of neighbors that are baffled, and sometimes frightened, by the swelling number of openly gay Khmer down the road.
For photos and the full story, click here.
December 9, 2010 – Srun Srorn
LGBT Rights Project – Cambodian Center for Human Rights
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) today, 9 December 2010, releases a report titled "Coming out in the Kingdom – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia". Please find attached a copy of this report in Khmer and English and a press release, in Khmer and English, outlining the release of the report.
Thank you and kind regards
CCHR releases report examining the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Cambodia
PHNOM PENH – The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) today releases a report entitled Coming out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Cambodia (the “Report”). The Report is the first publication produced by the LGBT Rights Project (the “Project”) implemented by CCHR and supported by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education.
There have only been a small number of studies of the situation of LGBT people in Cambodia to date. Most of these have focused on health issues related to sexual behavior. This Report looks at the current situation for LGBT people in Cambodia from a human rights perspective, noting that LGBT people are entitled to exactly the same human rights as others in the community. The research in the Report was supported by interviews with approximately 60 LGBT Cambodians, conducted in September and October 2010. The interviews took place in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Takeo, and Sihanoukville. CCHR met with interviewees in both groups and on a one-on-one basis. The interview structure was informal. The Report notes that LGBT Cambodians face unique challenges, including ostracism from their families and communities, which often leads to economic hardship, as well as discrimination from employers and authorities such as the police.
CCHR hopes that the Report will serve as a useful tool for raising awareness about the challenges facing LGBT Cambodians today and encouraging acceptance of LGBT people in families and communities throughout Cambodia. CCHR will continue to work with LGBT individuals and groups to support them in their efforts to document and report discrimination and abuse and advocate for recognition of their fundamental human rights.
The Report is available to view or download in Khmer and English on the Cambodian Human Rights portal www.sithi.org and on the CCHR website.
Srorn Srun Ou Virak
Project Coordinator, LGBT Rights Project President
Cambodian Center for Human Rights Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Tel: +855 81 20 24 44 Tel: +855 12 40 40 51
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) is a non-political, independent, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights throughout the Kingdom of Cambodia. For more information, please visit To stay up to date with the work of the CCHR and the human rights situation in Cambodia please visit and join our Facebook Page
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December 2010 – Cambodia Center For Human Rights
Coming Out In The Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, BisexualL AND Transgender People In Cambodia
As a result of differences in language and culture, the concept of ‘homosexuality’ as understood in the West is not necessarily directly transferable and understandable in the Cambodian context. Rather, the Cambodian understanding of sexuality is derived from concepts of gender, character and personality. The focus on these character traits and outwardly visible characteristics instead of sexual orientation means that many Cambodians who are homosexual do not identify themselves as such.
Among Buddhists, there is a general disposition to tolerate homosexuality. Because Cambodian culture is predominantly Buddhist, homosexuality, whilst seen as an oddity, does not attract the kind of aggressive reaction as can be seen in Christian or Muslim cultures. Buddhism itself places no value on marriage or procreation. Marriage and procreation are considered positive if they bring about love and respect, but may be deemed negative if pain or strife is caused. However, in Cambodia, cultural, social and economic pressures override Buddhist teachings on marriage – family values are incredibly important and pressure is strong for sons and daughters to marry and have children.
King Father Norodom Sihanouk has expressed public support for LGBT people but the views of other politicians have been mixed. In 2007, Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly disowned his adopted daughter for being a lesbian while imploring parents of gay Cambodians not to discriminate against them. The challenges faced by LGBT people in Cambodia have not been acknowledged by the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) and do not seem to feature on the RGC agenda at all.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Cambodia and there are no anti-gay religious traditions. However, LGBT persons in Cambodia still face discrimination and/or abuse from family members, employers, and police.
Cambodian society can be tolerant of male homosexual behavior provided it is discrete and does not affect the traditional family structure. Sexual behavior amongst male youths may be seen as harmless experimentation, since women are expected to remain ‘pure’ until marriage. Youthful indiscretions may be forgotten or may continue unnoticed. However, eventually men are expected to marry and father children. Given traditional gender roles, women have less ability to pursue same-sex relationships than homosexual males, either privately or publicly.
Given the emphasis placed on marriage and children, most LGBT individuals will feel pressured by family to continue the family line. In addition, the lack of a social security system often means that the older generation becomes heavily reliant on the support and care of the younger generations of their family. Pursuing a homosexual relationship is a path most individuals cannot socially or economically afford to take. The risk of ostracism from a close family network and economic difficulties posed by living outside the family network may mean that LGBT persons do not live the lives they wish to or have to conduct homosexual relationships in secret.
While LGBT persons appear to most commonly face abuse from their own families and communities, they also sometimes suffer at the hands of the State through the actions of those in positions of authority. Those in positions of authority within the state who instigate or oversee discrimination or violence against LGBT individuals may consciously or unconsciously conceive of such treatment as ‘punishment’ for not adhering to accepted social norms. The perpetrators may also feel a sense of entitlement, seeing themselves as of a higher social status and morally superior to LGBT individuals, who they treat as morally deplorable and second-rate citizens.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to all of the same rights as other individuals. Both Cambodian and international law prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their personal characteristics, guaranteeing equal rights and freedoms and equal application of the law to all individuals.
22 December 2010 – PinkPaper
Groundbreaking report looks at LGBT Cambodians – The Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report on the 9 December titled "Coming Out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia."
by Rex Wockner
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a groundbreaking report on the 9 December titled "Coming Out in the Kingdom: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People in Cambodia." It says that LGBT Cambodians face unique challenges, including ostracism from their families and communities that often leads to economic hardship as well as discrimination by employers and authorities. The report argues that the concept of homosexuality as understood in "the West" may not directly transfer to Cambodia.
"The Cambodian understanding of sexuality is derived from concepts of gender, character and personality," it says. "The focus on these character traits and outwardly visible characteristics instead of sexual orientation means that many Cambodians who are homosexual do not identify themselves as such."
Buddhism, the report says, generally tolerates homosexuality. "Homosexuality, whilst seen as an oddity, does not attract the kind of aggressive reaction as can be seen in Christian or Muslim cultures," it states. "Buddhism itself places no value on marriage or procreation. Marriage and procreation are considered positive if they bring about love and respect, but may be deemed negative if pain or strife is caused. However, in Cambodia, cultural, social and economic pressures override Buddhist teachings on marriage — family values are incredibly important and pressure is strong for sons and daughters to marry and have children."
"Sexual behavior amongst male youths may be seen as harmless experimentation, since women are expected to remain ‘pure’ until marriage," the report continues. "Youthful indiscretions may be forgotten or may continue unnoticed. However, eventually men are expected to marry and father children. Given traditional gender roles, women have less ability to pursue same-sex relationships than homosexual males, either privately or publicly."
"The risk of ostracism from a close family network and economic difficulties posed by living outside the family network may mean that LGBT persons do not live the lives they wish to or have to conduct homosexual relationships in secret," the researchers conclude. Nonetheless, an LGBT community is emerging in the nation. A pride celebration, which includes workshops, movies, art exhibits and social gatherings, launched in 2003. Four hundred people attended the culmination of the events in 2009.
Pride organisers have formed an organisation called RoCK to support LGBT people and raise awareness among non-gay Cambodians. A gay "scene" has developed in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. And "the Internet has allowed gay Cambodian people to connect to other gay people, thus raising awareness of a wider, global LGBT community and the possibilities of participating in this," the report said.
19 January, 2011 – CNN
China announces high-speed rail link to Singapore via Vietnam – Construction of a section of railway linking Nanning to Vietnam will China has announced plans to build a high-speed railway linking the southern Chinese Guangxi Zhaung autonomous region with Singapore via Vietnam, according to China Daily.
The first stage of construction will link the Chinese city of Nanning with Pingxiang, a city near China’s border with Vietnam. Work on this section will commence in the second half of 2011, China Daily reported, citing the regional government’s development and reform commission. The construction of the high-speed rail will be the Nanning government’s main priority in the next five years. The line is meant to increase commerce and various trade between China and ASEAN nations.
"We will invest 15.6 billion yuan (US$3.05 billion) to build the railway linking Nanning and Singapore via Vietnam," said Long Li, director of the region’s transportation department. "This is extremely important for the construction of the Nanning-Singapore Economic Corridor." The corridor refers to the economic link between China and ASEAN nations, starting at Nanning in Guangxi and passing through Hanoi in Vietnam, Vientiane in Laos, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh, Thailand’s Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia on its way to Singapore. China Daily referred to Guangxi as the country’s main foreign-trade center, with ASEAN being its largest bloc trading partner.begin later this year
May 2011 Update
12 May, 2011 – CNN
Shanghai-Beijing high-speed train trial begins – As the official launch date for one of China’s most anticipated new train lines nears, cutting travel time between Shanghai and Beijing in half, the new service tests the tracks
by Jessica Beaton
Flying between Beijing and Shanghai might soon be a thing of the past. The Shanghai-Beijing high-speed train began its one-month trial yesterday, testing the 1,318-kilometer route for the official late June opening, according to state media reports. The first train left Shanghai at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, according to Shanghai government-run news portal EastDay.com, although it didn’t carry any passengers. The line is opening ahead of schedule; it was originally set to begin operations in early 2012.
The train will connect two of China’s economic powerhouses with only one stop between them in Nanjing. The whole trip will take just under five hours — more than twice the flying time between the two cities — with average speeds of 300 kilometers per hour. The average train trip between the two cities is currently about 10 hours. "The initially planned operation speed was 350 kilometers per hour but we decided to reduce it due to safety concerns and prices," said Wang Yongping, spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, to state media reporters.
Currently the fastest train line in China connects Beijing with Tianjin, running at 350 kilometers per hour. Ticket prices have been yet to be released, although China.org.cn reports that the train will use an ID-based ticket booking system starting June 1 in an attempt to prevent ticket scalping. Shanghai may implement the system as early as May 22, due to its policy of releasing tickets 11 days before a trip.
The construction of the 1,318-kilometer line was started in April 2008 with total investment estimated at RMB 220.9 billion. The new line is part of China’s increased investment in its high-speed rail network, which reached 8,358 kilometers at the end of 2010 and is expected to exceed 16,000 kilometers by 2020.
03 February 2011 – The Phnom Penh Post
Kingdom courts gay tourists
by Soeun Say
Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism has welcomed a bid to launch a global campaign to encourage gay and lesbian travellers to the Kingdom, an official told The Post today. According to a press release posted online today, some Cambodian tourism businesses have set up a global campaign called “Adore Cambodia!” to let gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender tourists know they are welcome in the country. “Siem Reap is remarkable because major players in the hospitality and service industries are comfortable extending a genuine welcome specifically to GLBT visitors,” John Goss, director of Utopia-Asia.com, which lists more than 70 gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses around Cambodia, was quoted as saying.
An openly gay businessman, named as Sopheara, was quoted as saying: “Mutual respect between people is deeply a part of Khmer culture. Gays and lesbians are included as long as cultural traditions are respected. More and more Cambodians, in all strata of society, are living an open gay life. But you won’t find provocative displays of sexuality here.”
Today, So Sokvuthy, director of promotion department of Ministry of Tourism said that although the ministry was not informed of the plan, he welcomed any company or person that wanted to promote the tourism sector. “It is not a problem, if they do not break the traditions [of Cambodia]. We have no policy to discriminate on sex, national and religious grounds. We really support them,” said So Sokvuthy.
He added that the ministry was open to all companies wanting to promote the Kingdom. “It will let tourists know about Cambodia and attract tourists come to the country if they promote tourism,” he said.
The press release added that “with the spread of ultra-cheap flights from regional hubs like Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, gay and lesbian tourists have discovered a quiet haven of tolerance, culture and world heritage that is actively reaching out to the economically powerful GLBT niche travel market” in Cambodia. The campaign logo design, it continued, has been based on the Runbdul flower depicted in the six colours of the “internationally recognised gay rainbow”.
March 25, 2011 – UK Gay News
UK Appoints Openly Gay Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia
London – Mark Gooding has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, it was announced yesterday. Currently Mr. Gooding is Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives in Colombo and is due to take up his new appointment in September. He is openly gay and has a civil partner, Dr Christopher McCormick.
“I am honoured and delighted to be appointed HM Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said in a press statement. “The UK and Cambodia have strong shared interests in a variety of fields, including trade, development, tourism, climate change, security, and human rights. I look forward to developing further the strong ties that already exist between our two countries and to creating new partnerships in the years ahead.”
Generally speaking, Cambodia – a predominantly Buddhist country – accepts homosexuality. The highly-regarded King Sihanouk famously said in 2004 that he supported gay marriage. But Cambodia is not an ‘absolute monarchy’ and the King has no executive powers. And three years later Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly announced at a graduation ceremony attended by almost 3,000 people, that his youngest, and adopted, daughter Malis was a lesbian – and that had disowned her. However, in the same speech he asked Cambodians to accept homosexuals.
A Gay Pride has been staged in the capital Phnom Penh every year since 2004, and is usually held to coincide with International Day Against Homophobia. This year, Phnom Penh Pride is between May 10 and 17.
6 May 2011 – LGBT Asylum News
In Southeast Asia, no longer silence on LGBT issues
by Dr. Jason Abbott
Last week 66 young boys in the conservative largely Muslim state of Terengganu, Malaysia, were sent to a special ‘re-education’ camp for displaying signs of effeminacy which if left ‘unchecked’, state official argued, could “reach the point of no return”. In other words they could ‘become’ gay or transsexual. While the women’s minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, criticized this move, neither the state government nor the Federal government has yet acted to do anything about this. But we should not be either shocked or surprised since gay rights in Malaysia are largely non-existent. Only a month earlier for example, Malaysian radio stations chose to deliberately ‘garble’ the line, “No matter gay, straight or bi, lesbian or transgendered life, I’m on the right track, baby” in the Lady Gaga song “Born this Way” for fear of being fined by the government for breaking rules on ‘good taste… decency.. [or for being] “offensive to public feeling”.
Indeed as the current trial of the opposition leader, and former deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim visibly demonstrates, the country’s religious and political elite continue to regard homosexuality as a morally repugnant way of life. Thus in Anwar’s case putting him on trial for sodomy (which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison) has proven a ‘convenient’ and sadly rational tactic by the government to destroy his political career and tarnish his public image. But Malaysia is by no-means on it’s own in the region in its staunchly conservative stance. When it comes to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, Southeast Asia is found severely wanting.
While Thailand might be infamous for its transsexual ‘lady boys’, same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption remain illegal, and there are no anti-discrimination laws nor laws concerning gender and identity expression. Arguably the most gay-friendly country in Southeast Asia (perhaps surprisingly given that it is overwhelmingly Catholic) is The Philippines, where same-sex adoption is permitted and since 2009 openly gay men and women have been allowed to serve in the military. However even here anti-discrimination law is largely absent nationally, while same-sex marriages or civil partnerships are not officially recognized. And yet Thailand, Cambodia and The Philippines are in a veritable league of their own compared to the rest of the region. In Burma, Brunei, and Malaysia homosexuality remains illegal with harsh prison sentences the normal punishment; none of the ten Southeast Asian countries recognize neither same-sex marriages or partnerships; only two allow same-sex adoption (Cambodia and The Philippines); three allow gay men or women to serve in the military (The Philippines, Thailand and Singapore) and none have passed anti-discrimination laws.
To defend this appalling track record, arguments have been made about ‘cultural and spiritual pollution’ from the decadent (sic) West, and about the incompatibility of homosexuality with the teachings of Islam and other religions. In most cases the opposition is pure bigotry and drawn from the view that regards LGBTs as nothing more than deviant ‘life-style’ choices. The head of Malaysia’s controversial Islamic Affairs department in an interview with Time magazine in 2000 epitomized this view when he remarked that homosexuality “is a crime worse than murder”. When asked if it was wrong for two people of the same sex to love each other he rebuked the questioner replying, “Love? How can men have sex with men? God did not make them this way. This is all Western influence”.
In even starker terms former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr. Mahathir Mohamad warned in a national day speech in 2003 that “if there are any homosexuals in Malaysia they had better mend their ways.” In the same speech he also criticized the West saying that, “they are very angry — especially their reporters, many of whom are homos — when we take legal action against these practices.” But it is not simply Malaysia where such views remain widespread. For example, a crowd of extremists shut down the 4th International Lesbian and Gay Association Asia conference that was supposed to take place in Surabaya, Indonesia between 26th and 28th March 2010. In addition all 150 participants had to evacuate the conference hotel.
June 26, 2011 – Cambodia Out Website
CambodiaOut Website Expands
CambodiaOut is a Gay and Lesbian community based website. It is designed to provide information about the vibrant gay community in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Due to many requests we have recently added the The Republic of Laos, Kingdom of Thailand and The Republic of Viet Nam to our website. We try to provide a service to the Asian and expat LGBT community, as well as to the tourists that are visiting here.
We try our best to keep up with all the changes in venues throughout Southeast Asia, if you know of any new venues or those that may have closed down, please let us know. If you have any events, posters or photo’s, please send them to us, we will be happy to post them.