Gay Cambodia News & Reports 2004-08

 1 Cambodian King Comments on Gay Marriages 2/04

2 A Search for Sexual Identities in the Shadows of Angkor Wat 6/04

3 Compassion in Cambodia (from the gay-friendly King) 11/04

4 By Siem Reap’s Ruins, a New Night Scene (including a gay/mixed bar) 5/05

5 There’s a growing gay scene in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap 5/07

6 ‘Asia must overcome HIV stigma’ 7/07

7 Cambodia PM severs ties to gay daughter 10/07

8 Cambodian leader disowns lesbian daughter 10/07

9 Cambodia PM slammed for disowning lesbian daughter 10/07

10 HIV/AIDS Prevalence in Cambodia Decreasing 8/08

11 Life’s a drag at Phnom Penh’s flourishing gay bar scene 8/08

12 Cambodia comes out 9/08

13 Ethnography Study of Male to Male Sexuality in Cambodia 10/08

14 Challenges in HIV prevention among Cambodian MSMs 10/08

15 Ladyboys face crackdown 10/08

16 Sexual practices and knowledge of HIV/STI transmission 11/08

Associated Press,

February 20, 2004

Cambodian King Comments on Gay Marriages

PhnomPenh, Cambodia (AP) – After watching TV images of gay weddings in San Francisco, Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk said Friday that homosexual couples should be allowed to get married.
Since the Cambodian government chose in 1993 to be a "liberal democracy," it should allow "marriage between man and man … or between woman and woman," the king said in a signed statement in French posted on his Web site.
The king, currently on a medical visit to Beijing, also said that transvestites should be "accepted and well-treated in our national community."
Sihanouk is a constitutional monarch with no executive powers but is highly respected in his country.  Gay couples are not allowed to marry in Cambodia.

San Francisco has issued more than 2,800 marriage licenses to gay couples in the past week, amid a growing debate in the United States over whether such unions should be allowed.  Sihanouk said in his Web site statement that he saw TV footage of gay weddings there.

On the Net:  King’s site,


June 2004

Borsorbor at the Golden Banana
– A Search for Sexual Identities in the Shadows of Angkor Wat

by Martin Foreman
Siem Reap, Cambodia – It’s the middle of the day and five of us are having lunch in the courtyard of the Golden Banana, Siem Reap’s (and probably Cambodia’s) only “gay-friendly” hotel (click on the picture on the right). Angkor Wat is under five miles away, but I’ve been there twice before and this is a business trip. There’s Sophat, my contact on this fact-finding trail; Phearum, my translator; a colleague of Sophat’s and our driver, both of whom have names that I have not been able to catch. It’s taken us five hours to drive the 300 km from Phnom Penh and we’re relaxing over a beer while waiting for our lunch. The day is hot, but we’re cooled by a fan and we’re enjoying our surroundings in this quiet backwater, surrounded by trees and plants and the newly-built chalets.

For most of the journey, as my four companions talked and joked in Khmer, I stared out of the window at the endless plain we drove across, criss-crossed by dried up rice paddies and punctuated at intervals by tall palm trees. Every so often we drove through a village or small town. The houses were on stilts, the older, wooden ones with palm leaf roofs, perched on rickety dead tree trunks that threatened to collapse under the first wind, the newer ones trim and smart on their upright concrete pillars. Motorbikes were the affordable and ubiquitous transportation, except for the hordes of white-shirted and blue skirted or –trousered schoolchildren who flooded the roads on their ancient bikes.

Over lunch, however, I could bring the conversation back to English and the goal of my trip: to learn what was known about the sexual networks of men who have sex with men in Cambodia. In almost every meeting I had had, however, I had tripped over the problem that nobody seemed sure what we were talking about. Yes, men had sex with men in Cambodia, but there were two kinds of such men: short hair and long hair. otherwise known as srey sros (“pretty girls”) and pros saat (“handsome men”).

Pretty girls with their long hair and feminine mannerisms can’t hide in Khmer society, while short haired handsome men can pretend that they really love women. That much was agreed on – eventually – but other problems arose. Are short hairs really men who haven’t grown their hair long, as one informant suggested? Does “handsome men” refer to all men, or only the men who have sex with men, or only the men who have sex with men and are willing to admit it? And what’s this division between MSM (men who have sex with men – an acronym I have long disliked: read here) and “real men”, who also have sex with men?

To try and cut through the confusion, I’d arranged to meet Chart. P… Cambodia’s gay activist, the evening before coming to Siem Reap. Chart, a short, intense, energetic designer who has spent half his life in the US, surely had both the Western and Khmer perspective to explain the situation to me. So sitting in the Black Eagle, Phnom Penh’s (and Cambodia’s) only exclusively gay bar, half-watching the part time rent boys play pool, I listened to Chart’s explanation of terms. Listened, and had my suspicions confirmed. There is uncertainty over terms, because not only are terms new, but so is the concept. The idea of men having sex is new in Cambodian society. The closest Khmer can get to the idea is kteuy, a term close in meaning to transgender. Only kteuy is more of an insult than a statement or a compliment and those who would once be called kteuy now prefer the term pretty girl.

Chart’s hair was definitely short. What do you call yourself in Khmer, I asked him. Short hair? Gay? He shook his head. A man who loves men. Not MSM he insisted – in either English or Khmer. Not sex. Love is better than sex. So what was the Khmer term he put on the leaflets of the parties he organised? Man-love-man. Women-love-women for lesbian. And pretty girl for transgenders – except not all pretty girls are transgenders… but that’s another detail that gets lost in the discussion.

Wind forward 16 hours to the Golden Banana. What, I asked Phearum, was the transliteration of the Khmer term for a man / men who love(s) men (Khmer is one of the lucky languages that doesn’t have a plural form.) He took a pen and my notepad and wrote boros sralanh boros. It’s very long, I said. Maybe it will be supplanted by “gay”. He and Sophat shook their heads. “Gay” is too foreign, too suggestive of pretty girl. But boros sralanh boros doesn’t trip off the tongue easily, I pointed out. You could say bros sralanh bros Phearum suggested.

Two syllables shorter, but still a mouthful. Some new term is bound to emerge, I said, something to describe the emerging awareness of both short and long hairs that there is a community, and potentially a culture of men have have sex with / love men. Something short and snappy. How about bor sor bor? Phearum suggested; more accurately, since written Cambodian does not separate words – borsorbor. Like MSM but nicer, said Sophat, more Khmer and less emphasis on sex. As our two other companions listened, Sophat and Phearum repeated the word several times. They liked it. They could see it catching on. “Are you borsorbor?” Sophat asked. Maybe, said the driver. More like borsorbeer, I suggested, indicating his glass. He smiled and nodded.

So now we have a Khmer word for MSM, Sophat said. No! I said, you don’t. There’s a difference. Borsorbor are men who want to have sex with them. But lots of MSM only have sex with men for money, or because there are no women around. I had heard enough stories in the previous 48 hours to convince me that there was an epidemic of drunken, nominally heterosexual men being waylaid late at night in the toilets of bars by long-hair, and sometimes short-haired, men looking for quick sexual partners. men who prefer women aren’t borsorbor. Sophat nodded doubtfully.

Well, I thought, it doesn’t really matter. You can’t dictate how a word is used, particularly when it isn’t your language. Anyway, for the first time in my life, I had been present at the birth of a neologism; for history’s sake and mention in future editions of the Khmer version of the Oxford English Dictionary, I noted the date: it was Wednesday 12 May 2004 – a day that should Go Down In History.

History is history because time passes. Three hours later the three of us were in the suburbs, in the yard of an anonymous house that served as the offices and training grounds for Long Hairs who learned about HIV/AIDS to pass on the information to their friends and peers. They talked about their lives and their dreams. They were all young, and all dressed very effeminately and all wanted “real men” as their longterm partners, but although they sometimes called themselves Pretty Girls, they didn’t want to have a sex change, at least partly because they had heard that those who did become women died young.

One was in tears every night because her boyfriend was marrying a real woman that day; another bore the parallel scars on her arm that told of the time when deeply unhappy she had cut herself; a third joked about how he was beaten up by a gang of men offended by his effeminacy and how he had managed to run away; others, no doubt, had been raped but did not talk about it. All were proud of the work they were doing with both long and short hair, telling them about HIV and how to protect themselves, and proud of standing up in the community and saying I am a Pretty Girl – respect me.

As the sun set, Sophat, Phearum and the group leader drove off into the countryside and eventually down a dusty dirt track through a small forest, passing the occasional man on a bicycle or shack where a young woman sat patiently to sell a rare customer stopped a can of something or packet of something else. Here and there in the fading light through the trees could be spotted the poorest houses I had seen so far. Eventually we turned off the road and drove through an arch that marked the entry to a village and soon stopped. Small children, naked, half-naked or in the dustiest old clothes watched we walked towards one of the houses. At the back an old man in blue shorts and a body covered in long-faded tattoos squatted on the ground hacking a piece of bamboo into shape for a structure that I could not identify. He smiled an acknowledgement at us and carried on his work.

In the next fifteen minutes, emerged out of the gloom, on foot or on bicycle, over twenty youths, some not yet teenagers, but most in their late teens, and sat round a table in a small half-open hut in the corner of the yard. Some greeted each other quietly, others sat and waited, only a few glanced at the bald Westerner watching from a few feet away. A small fluorescent light attached to an unseen energy source was switched on. As Phearum whispered a translation to me, the son of the man in blue shorts, a 25 year old primary school teacher, explained my presence and said that today’s topic was the impact of HIV on Cambodian society. What did they think that impact would be?

They’re not long-hair, I whispered to Sophat and the group leader, who was watching. No, they’re short hair. I looked again. A group of under twenty year olds in rural Cambodia who identify as men who have sex with men? Yes, this one had long fingernails, a couple had shirts that were bright or well-tailored, another’s mannerisms were gentle and effeminate, one or two rested their arms on a friend’s back. How many villages do they come from? I asked. Three – about 700 families overall. That meant 1 in 35 families had a young son who was becoming aware of his different sexuality. Not only that, but there was a group that welcomed him. And the teacher’s family, I asked, they have no problem? Well, the mother knows that they are borsorbor – that word again – but the father thinks they’re just talking about HIV.

The seminar was not going well – few seemed to understand the question and the answers were vague. But they were all paying attention. Lack of TV, I thought, lack of anything else to do – too dark to play football, no money or too far to go into town. So why not join this group of like-minded friends… There was a commotion above me. Against the night sky, I could see the silhouette of man climbing a palm a few away. There was a sawing sound and the thump as coconuts hit the ground. Five minutes later, one was thrust into my hand, a hole pierced and a straw inserted. It tasted good.

An hour later, I was on my way back to Siem Reap. The teacher came up and in good English asked what I thought. I could only be complimentary. How do you get to know each other, I asked? At pagoda dances, he said. We see someone standing on his own, we get to know him, we go and talk to him, invite him to our meetings. I thought of gay rights groups back in London and the US – the offices, the telephones, the computers, the suits and the rolodexes detailing members of Parliament and Congress. These young men had a long way to go before they felt comfortable expressing themselves in their society, but some of them, I was sure, would make it.

NY Transfer News Collective (
Alternet (

November 19, 2004

Compassion in Cambodia (from the gay-friendly King)

by Cyril Chin-Kidess
Anyone disheartened by the way many U.S. leaders cast gay marriage as a "threat" to moral values should remember that there is a world beyond the reach of America’s courts and legislatures, where gays and lesbians and their unions are acknowledged and accepted, often without great fanfare. Take my story, for instance.

Although I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve lived abroad for the last 10 years and have been with my partner, Theo, for eight years. Theo is a German diplomat, so we move around a lot. At the beginning of this year, Theo was offered a posting to Phnom Penh. He accepted on the condition that the German foreign ministry find a way for me to accompany him. While Germany legally recognizes same-sex unions and the German foreign ministry supports our partnership, the Cambodian government does not, nor would it grant me the same long-stay diplomatic visa typically issued to a diplomat’s spouse. I could, of course, have tried to find a job in Cambodia and apply for a work permit.

But if I wanted to live in Cambodia solely on the grounds of my relationship with Theo, I would have to go in and out of the country on a monthly tourist visa, become a student or go under the guise of Theo’s domestic help — a common scenario for gay diplomats and their partners worldwide, including those posted to the United States. I was fortunate enough to find an alternate way.

The recently retired King of Cambodia, His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk, has led a fascinating life. From his coronation in 1941, to achieving independence from France in 1953, to recently ensuring the continuation of the monarchy with the election of his son, Prince Norodom Sihamoni, as his successor, King Sihanouk has been pivotal in the history of modern Cambodia. In between ruling, abdicating, being prime minister and head of state (as well as a musician, a film director and an actor), living in exile, being imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge and becoming king again in 1993, King Sihanouk always demonstrated a resilient compassion for his country and people.

King Sihanouk also takes a keen interest in world events. One such event was San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s decision to have San Francisco issue marriage licenses on a non-discriminatory basis. On Feb. 20, after seeing televised images of some of the gay weddings in San Francisco, King Sihanouk commented on his Web site, , that as a "liberal democracy" Cambodia should allow "marriage between man and man . or between woman and woman."

On Feb. 26, King Sihanouk followed up with a letter in which he disagreed that God absolutely opposes "gays"; rather, he wrote, "God, like Buddha, is compassion, indulgence, non-discrimination."

In March, unable to resist the opportunity presented by King Sihanouk’s comments, I wrote to him for help. Remarkably, King Sihanouk personally replied a few days later, "You are welcome to the Kingdom of Cambodia."

With that, Theo and I moved to Cambodia at the end of July, and a month later I received a three-year Cambodian visa in my German diplomatic passport. Having lived and travelled in many countries where gay marriages or unions are officially recognized and where most people simply don’t care whether you are gay or straight, I find it hard to believe that everyday Americans are any different at heart.

As far as I am concerned, Mayor Newsom and King Sihanouk put the issue simply and got it right. Theo and I are indebted to them, and we hope that others will find the compassion and courage to follow their example. Unfortunately, gay marriage has become a highly charged rallying cry for those desiring to push forward a much broader and divisive political agenda for the country. Perhaps the way forward is to stop focusing on the emotive word "marriage" and press ahead for meaningful civil unions. Then leave it to the American people, if for no other reason than simply out of convenience, to start using the words "married" and "marriage" in everyday discourse.

Technically, Theo and I entered into a "Lebenspartnerschaft," or life partnership, under German law, but everyone we know just says that we’re married — or worse, that we’re an old married couple. Meanwhile, as Germans see that their cities have not turned into stone and become more at ease with "gay marriage," the legal differences between civil unions and marriage are slowly being chipped away.

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The New York Times

May 22, 2005

By Siem Reap’s Ruins, a New Night Scene
(including gay/mixed bar)

by Jennifer Gampell
In the mid-1990’s when tourists started trickling back to the temples of Angkor Wat after the end of Cambodia’s civil war, the nearby town of Siem Reap was nearly as rundown as the ruins. The town consisted of a few dusty streets that visitors seldom had the time or inclination to explore.

Today, as memories of the area as a danger zone fade, Siem Reap is experiencing a tourism boom. The numbers of paved roads, hotel rooms, international flights and visitor arrivals are all rising rapidly. Though Angkor Wat will always be the main draw, Siem Reap offers exponentially more night-life options than it did even 18 months ago. For Americans, commerce is easy, since transactions are in dollars (small change is returned in local currency).

The newest restaurants and bars – many occupying renovated, or reproduced, French colonial-style shop houses with overhanging second-story balconies – lie within the radius of a $1 tuk-tuk ride (those omnipresent two-wheeled carriages pulled by motorcycles). The highest concentration is in the Old Market area at the town’s triangular southern end. Except for the busy stretch called Pub or Bar Street, the tiny streets and alleys are nameless. Addresses often refer to a place’s proximity to one of the longer running establishments such as "near the Red Piano."

When Mick Jagger’s visit put four-year-old Khmer Kitchen, (855-12) 763 468, on the map a while back, it was the only restaurant on the pedestrian alley that parallels Pub Street on its southeastern side. By year’s end there will be five or six. The owner, Perk Sophal, recently moved her kitchen across the road but retained the unpretentious ambience. Diners ranging from backpackers to upmarket tourists keep returning for local fare like chicken soup with lemon grass, lime and mint ($2.50).

As you head southwest down the fast growing alley, you pass the rear of the new Pissa Italiana (main entrance on Pub Street, (855-12) 440 382, where the owner, a former executive chef at a five-star hotel, often takes a break from his hot pizza oven. Décor and service need improvement but not so the creamy gnocchi ($6) or perfectly sauced and topped thin-crust pizzas ($4 to $10).

Anchoring the top end of the alley, airy Linga Bar (855-12) 246 912,, is the town’s first gay-friendly lounge-style bar. Opened last November by a hotel manager, it’s now frequented by as many straights as gays. The pastel walls and black furniture, chilled sounds and regional snacks clearly have universal appeal. The large drinks menu (most at $3) includes martinis and cosmopolitans. Like most nightspots in Old Market, Linga stays open until at least 1 or 2 a.m.

Pub Street had three occupants in 2000. Today it’s almost full, with new places spilling over onto the short block leading to Sivatha Boulevard. Carnets d’Asie, at 333 Sivatha, (855-16) 746 701, fuses Khmer and French cuisine in the elegantly renovated rear courtyard of a former Chinese restaurant. In another country such beautiful presentation (like the lotus flower salad in a crispy edible bowl) and taste (fish tartar) would cost much more than $2.50 to $10.

The minimalist white and air-conditioned interior of Blue Pumpkin (cross the road at the end of Pub Street at the Soup Dragon), (855-63) 963 574, makes a cool alternative to the other naturally ventilated spots. Renowned for its baked goods, freshly blended health drinks, snacks and desserts (nothing above $5), the spacious two-story cafe also features free wireless Internet access.

A few blocks outside the Old Market area, the French-owned Abacus, just off Srivatha on the west end of Om Khun Street, (855-12) 644 286, closed Sundays, is barely six months old and already a favorite with the discerning expat crowd. Set in a relocated Khmer-style wooden house with a bar underneath and extra seating in the lush tropical garden, its menu changes daily. Succulent grilled fish (with pesto, curry or saffron cream), unusual meats (ostrich) and starters like smoked salmon guacamole – more than worth the $5 to $10. Vegetable accompaniments are free.

Sticky Rice Gay Guide

May 2007

Lingas and temples, bananas and cocktails – Gay Cambodia comes out
There is a growing gay scene in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

by Roberto Primavera
Maybe Ky is 37. Maybe he is only 33. The Cambodian does not know his date of birth. He was only a little child when the Red Khmer seized power and killed in the four years of their terror reign 2 million people. Amongst them the entire family of Ky. Only he and a younger sister survived the murderous regime of Pol Pot. Nobody alive remembers his date of birth. No records give evidence to the birth of Ky.

Somehow, Ky made it to a refugee camp in Thailand where the Red Cross took care of him and found him a foster family in New Zealand. In New Zealand Ky attended school, studied, had is first job, found out he was gay. After the death of Pol Pot in 1998 Cambodia embarked on the long journey of rebuilding the country. Ky in Kiwi land felt the urge to contribute to this process. He left New Zealand for Cambodia where he worked for the government. Feeling appalled, though, by the ubiquitous corruption, he quit the job. He started his own business instead and wrote history. Four years ago, he opened in Siem Reap the fabulous boutique hotel Golden Banana – the first openly gay enterprise in post-war Cambodia.

Siem Reap is the gateway to the temples of Angkor from Cambodia’s heydays as a cultural hub as political and military power in the region some 800 – 1000 years ago. Contemporary Cambodia is back on the tourist map with Angkor Wat, the Bayou temple with its enigmatic stone faces or Ta Prohm as its major draws, whose photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the surrounding jungle served as film set for Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. A must is a side trip to the "River of 1000 Lingas". The creators of Angkor Wat have carved a huge number of Lingas (whether there a really a thousand remains to be counted) into the rocky river bed. Lingas were the phallic symbol of the Hindu god Shiva whom Angkor Wat was dedicated.

There is no shortage of accommodations of all sorts from backpacker joints with bulk beds to luxury five-star-hotels. Internet cafes with fast connections are plenty and laptop users will enjoy WiFi in cafes like the gay friendly Blue Pumpkin (which looks like the Latte-and-Cake-sister of the Bed Supper Club in Bangkok), the gay Linga Bar or boutique hotels like the Golden Banana. Surely but slowly, the war torn country becomes just an ordinary developing county with tourism as a major money earner. 1.8 Million people visited Cambodia last year and almost all of them toured Siem Reap and Angkor.When night falls on Angkor

Getting there and getting around is as easy as pie. From Malaysia and Thailand AirAsia flies to Cambodia and from Singaporean the low budget carrier Jetstarasia. Busses connect Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the still somehow tacky seaside resort Sihanoukville. Air links between these cities are available though not really worth the money, unless you are on a Cambodia-in-48-hours-tour. The most pleasant way, though, to travel between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is the 5 hours speedboat cruise over the Tonle Sap River and lake. The boats themselves are a bit dirty and smelly. However, you can sit in the bows or even better on the roof and watch rural Cambodian passing by. Fishermen catching fish, water buffalos taking a bath, busy floating villages, plus palm trees, rice paddies, temples and mosques are an Asia picture-perfect.

Siem Reap is Cambodia’s boomtown. Hotels, restaurants, bars, spas are mushrooming. Only four, five years ago, Siem Reap was nothing but a sleepy provincial town. Now it sports one of the best urban nightlife in Southeast Asia. No wonder that there is also gay life blossoming. Right in the middle of it all is the fabulous gay "Linga Bar" of Martin Dishman. The American serves great cocktails such as "Linga Storm" or "Cocksucking Cowboy" and perfectly chilled beers. Right across the Linga Bar is the other half of Martin’s little Linga empire: The One, which is according to Martin the worlds smallest five star hotel. It has only one luxury room plus a roof garden. One night in The One sets you back 250 USD, the unofficial Cambodian currency.

Although it is an open secret that Cambodia’s king is a PLU (People Like Us) nobody talks publicly about the sexual orientation of king, who was before his coronation in 2004 in Phnom Penh a ballet dancer in Paris. Homosexuality is still a taboo in Cambodia. "They have no clue about homosexuality, thus they are not really biased towards gays", Ky says about his fellow Cambodians. "The attitude towards sexuality, though, is as relaxed as it is in Thailand."

Only last October Sokha and his Thai boyfriend Oak have opened in the vicinity of the Royal Palace Phnom Penh’s second gay bar "Blue Chilli" which is distinctly a hang out for local gay Khmer. Until then the trendy "Salt Lounge" at Sisowath Quay was the first and only gay bar, though not the only gay business in town. The hotel "Manor House" is gay owned and managed and so is stylish wellness spa and beauty paradise "OSPA".

Once a week Janna hangs out at the Blue Chilli. He would love to go there more often, but he can’t afford it. His job in a guesthouse earns him 70 USD a month. This is not too bad, though, in a country where a teacher or a police officer makes 35 Dollar a month. Yet even 70 Dollar are not enough to live on when you have to pay 30 Dollar rent a month for a room and the litre gas for your motorbike costs 1 dollar. Now wonder that 1,50 USD for a beer at the Blue Chilli are fortune for local gays (of whom a lot identify themselves rather as bisexuals than as gay).

Janna could make some money on the side if he would charge for sex. Yet Janna doesn’t like that. "I did ask money for sex", the 25 year old says. "Not any more. I didn’t like it." Cambodians are very proud people.

The Times

July 20, 2007

‘Asia must overcome HIV stigma’

Sydney – Asia has made progress in containing HIV but must remove the stigma associated with the virus to fully consolidate the gains and keep it under control, international research chiefs say. Speaking ahead of an international conference of 5,000 HIV/Aids researchers in Sydney next week, America’s top expert Anthony Fauci and his Australian counterpart David Cooper said HIV remained a major public health risk in Asia. Fauci said predictions HIV would devastate Asia as it had Africa had proved false after local health authorities, which were initially slow to heed warnings, adopted pro-active policies. But he said the potential for an epidemic still existed in a region estimated to have eight million people with HIV, a figure aid agency USAid says could climb to 40 million by 2010.

"The population density in Asia is so great, with countries like India and China that have a billion people each, that infection rates just have to track up a few percentage points and you’re potentially looking at a catastrophe," Fauci told AFP. Cooper, the co-chair of the International Aids Society (IAS) conference, said responding to HIV was complicated by the fact that many suffers existed on the fringe of Asian society and faced discrimination. "We’re not going to have the generalised epidemics in our region that we’ve got in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re going to have explosive smaller epidemics," he said.

"They tend to occur among drug users, also among gay men, sex workers or mobile workers such as truck drivers, fishermen who are more likely to pay for sex. In Asia, they’re stigmatised and discriminated populations. The trick is to get into these vulnerable populations and provide non-judgemental healthcare." Cooper cited China as an example of a country that had overcome its initial denial of an HIV problem but could go further if discrimination ended. "China is responding pretty well, their response has changed, they’re putting treatment in place and doing research," he said. "But people are still very much concerned about the human rights issues and how people with HIV are treated in Chinese society."

China estimated last year that it had 650,000 HIV cases, although United Nations (UN) officials estimate the actual number is now higher. A recent paper in British medical journal The Lancet praised China’s adoption of schemes such as needle exchanges and awareness campaigns among gay men, although the UN said there was still resistance to confronting the problem at a local level.

In India, where the estimated number of HIV cases was this month halved to 2.5 million, the government has set out to target the type of at-risk groups identified by Cooper. "They’re talking about upscaling programmes with marginalised groups," said Anjali Gopalan, head of the Naz Foundation, which works primarily with men. There was quite a bit of silence on them earlier." Indians with HIV are still often treated as social outcasts, with reports of doctors shunning Aids patients and HIV-positive children being barred from attending school with other pupils.

In Cambodia, one of the countries hit hardest by HIV/Aids, the authorities are concerned that discrimination is helping the virus spread. "It is difficult for us since stigma causes infected people not to speak out and this quietly spreads the infection," said Ly Peng Sun, deputy director of the National Centre for HIV/Aids and Dermatology. "Bias can prevent us from fighting the virus successfully."

Vietnam has introduced laws banning discrimination against people with HIV, although locals say it means some employers simply find a pretext to sack infected workers, rather than admitting it is because of their illness. "If this new law is effectively implemented, it will serve not only as a shield for the fundamental rights of people living with HIV…but also as a positive tool for fighting stigma and discrimination," UNAids Vietnam director Eammon Murphy said.

Thailand has adopted a different tack to breaking down the taboos regarding HIV with innovative education campaigns such as traffic police handing out condoms, an initiative dubbed "Cops and Rubbers." The country, which has experienced about half a million Aids deaths and has about the same number of HIV cases, has slashed infection rates since it appointed a cabinet-level anti-Aids co-ordinator to oversee prevention efforts. It is also pushing international drugmakers over access to generic versions of newer and more expensive HIV medications that are needed to treat patients who have become resistant to the old drug

The Kansas City Star

October 30, 2007

Cambodia PM severs ties to gay daughter

The Associated Press
Cambodian’s prime minister said Tuesday he was severing ties with his adopted daughter, who is a lesbian, but appealed to people not to discriminate against gays. "My adopted daughter now has a wife. I’m quite disappointed," Hun Sen said. He made the rare revelation about his closely guarded family life during a public speech at a student graduation ceremony. Hun Sen said he plans to file a civil court case to disown his adopted daughter so that she cannot claim any inheritance from his family.
"We are concerned that she might one day cause us trouble … and try to stake her claim for a share of our assets," he said.

The prime minister and his wife Bun Rany have three sons and two other daughters. He said they adopted their third daughter in the mid 80’s when she was 18 days old. She has carried his family name "Hun" just like his biological children. Hun Sen did not reveal her given name. Although he is cutting ties with her, Hun Sen said he was not discriminating against gays and appealed to society to show respect for them. "Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs or racing vehicles," he said.

Cambodian society, like that of neighboring Thailand, is generally tolerant of homosexuality. After watching television news reports about gay marriage in San Francisco in 2004, then-King Norodom Sihanouk wrote on his Web site that he supported the right of homosexual couples to marry. "It’s not their fault if God makes them born like that … Gays and lesbians would not exist if God did not create them," wrote Sihanouk, who abdicated the throne in favor of his son later that year.

Sam Vuthy, coordinator of Women’s Agenda for Change, a nonprofit Cambodian group advocating gay rights, declined to comment on Hun Sen’s decision regarding his daughter but applauded his appeal not to discriminate against gays.

30th October 2007

Cambodian leader disowns lesbian daughter writer
The Prime Minister of Cambodia has told an audience of students that he is disowning and disinheriting his adopted daughter because she is a lesbian.
Sâmdech Hun Sen, 56, has led the country since 1993. He has five children, one of whom is adopted. His family is normally kept out of the public eye. At a graduation ceremony in the city of Phnom Pehn yesterday, Hun Sen said he will file court papers to "deprive her of any will and property of my family. "I educated the whole people in my country but I could not educate my adopted daughter," he said, according to Xinhua News Agency.

He and his wife Bun Rany adopted the girl in 1988 when she was only a few weeks old. "She brought her girls to my house and slept together with them," he said. "We are concerned that one day her girls take bombs and poisonous materials to our house and we all will die. We have to deal the legal issues with her. I used to send her to study in the United States but she could not finish her study and came back to Cambodia. This is the first time that I declared publicly the internal affairs of my family, because lesbian cases happened in Cambodia with large range," he said.

The Prime Minister’s hardline stance contrasts with the views of King Sihanouk. The monarch, who has no political power, has written favourably about gay marriage and his belief that "homosexuals, as well as transvestites, as equal because [God loves] a wide range of tastes."

Homosexuality is legal in Cambodia


October 31, 2007

Cambodia PM slammed for disowning lesbian daughter

Phnom Penh (Reuters) – Women’s rights campaigners in Cambodia lashed out at Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday for trying to disown his adopted daughter because she is a lesbian.

"You do not have to agree with her decision, but you have to respect her rights," said Theary Seng, executive director of the Center for Social Development in the war-scarred southeast Asian nation’s capital. Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, told a graduation ceremony this week he was "disappointed" that his 19-year-old daughter, whom he adopted in 1988, was a lesbian. "I have my own problem — my adopted daughter has a wife," he said. "Now I will ask the court to disown her from my family."

Hun Sen has been in charge of Cambodia for the last two decades and is not known for a liberal outlook to life or politics. He and his wife, Bun Rany, have three sons and two daughters, and had kept the adoption of a third daughter a closely guarded secret. He did not reveal her name in his speech. "I can educate people in the whole country, but I cannot educate my adopted daughter," he added. "We sent her to study in the U.S., but she did a bad job. She returned home and took a wife."

However, Hun Sen asked Cambodia’s 13 million people to be more tolerant of homosexuals. "I urge parents of gays not to discriminate against them, and do not call them transvestites," Hun Sen said.

August 21, 2008

HIV/AIDS Prevalence in Cambodia Decreasing; Health Officials Predict Further Declines

HIV/AIDS prevalence in Cambodia has decreased from its all-time high in the late 1990s and health officials predict further declines in the near future, national media reported on Wednesday, Xinhuanet reports. Recent data collected by the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in 22 provinces and municipalities in the country indicate that less than 1% of people in Cambodia are living with HIV, compared with a prevalence that reached 3.3% in 1997. The data also found that an estimated 14% of female commercial sex workers are living with HIV/AIDS, compared with 43% in 1998. In addition, 1.1% of pregnant women so far this year are estimated to be HIV-positive, compared with 2.1% in 1998, according to the data.

According to NCHADS officials, the declines can be attributed to increased condom use and high treatment rates among people living with HIV/AIDS. NCHADS Director Mean Chhi Vun said that the data show that health officials have "successfully slowed down or controlled the HIV epidemic through prevention, care and treatment"

28 August 2008

Life’s a drag at Phnom Penh’s flourishing gay bar scene

by Priyanka Bhonsule
For the glamourous performers in the increasingly popular drag shows at the capital city’s Blue Chilli and Green Flame bars, hallelujah! It’s raining men If a small, dimly lit bar off Street 19 is pumping out Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston on a Friday night, don’t walk away – peep in and you might just witness the next big trend in Phnom Penh’s rainbow community. Drag shows are a fairly recent and underground form of entertainment in the capital, but the men who perform in all their feathered, sequined glory are ensuring its soaring popularity.

Blue Chilli owner Sokha said they have been putting on weekly shows for almost five months, and with each performance, the audience numbers grow. "If it’s not raining then the club is full, inside and outside," Sokha told the Post. "In the beginning it was just friends. Someone had a birthday party and one of my friends likes to perform, so we put on a song and that’s how it began." There are two shows a week, Sokha said, with his business partner Oak and staff member Deedee as the main performers and others joining in.

Starting drag shows was a way to be different from the numerous other gay businesses in Phnom Penh, and Oak said their shows were popular because he pays attention to details and gauges audience reaction to each performance. "If I look at them after a song and they are not clapping or are looking unhappy, I’ll never perform that song again," Oak said. "It’s a funny act. Even if it’s a sad song, we will try to make it funny." It’s hard to meet 28-year-old Oak and imagine him doing anything other than flamboyant performances, but he did an eight-year stint in a marketing job in Thailand.

"Four years ago, I met Sokha in Bangkok and he told me about Cambodia, which I hadn’t really heard much about. I came here to travel and really liked it, but I thought, ‘There are no gay bars.’ So I said to Sokha, ‘Let’s open one," Oak said. "Two years ago, when we opened Blue Chilli, [the gay men] were shy," he added. "But now, they are ready to meet new people and go out together. Soon I think the gay scene here will be like Bangkok."
Sokha said that the shows have opened up Phnom Penh’s gay community to a different form of entertainment, "something which is fun."

For the boys who perform drag shows at another Phnom Penh bar, Green Flame, having fun is what it’s all about. Green Flame owner Trung said they love it so much that sometimes they’ll put on a show just for themselves. "Sometimes they can’t bare standing around in guys’ clothes, so they change [into dresses] and just put on a show!" Trung said.

Green Flame is a new addition to the gay-friendly scene in the city, having been open only two months, but once again the diva drag show draws in a sizable crowd to the tiny hole-in-the-wall bar. "Usually there are about 30 customers, but if the bar area gets crowded, they watch from outside," Trung said. Trung, who is Vietnamese, said that Phnom Penh was welcoming to the gay community. "It’s hard to have a small, gay business in Vietnam," he said, "but here I have no problems."

September 23, 2008

Cambodia comes out

by Robin Newbold
Cambodia and in particular Siem Reap – gateway to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex – is fast seeing an increase in gay tourism. Former Bangkok-based writer Robin Newbold checks out the scene and reveals what’s in store for gay travelers.
Cambodia has got a nasty past. The twisted communist regime, headed by Pol Pot, and administered by his Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia in 1975 and wanted to create a nation of peasants where wealth, status and education were irrelevant. People were forced to work in fields or on government-approved building projects, while schools and universities were closed and anyone deemed a threat, from people who spoke a foreign language to those wearing glasses were interrogated and then executed. The authorities were said to have bludgeoned the country “back to the stone age” and a protracted guerrilla war ended only in 1998. But now the nation is reaping the peace dividend and with its chequered history of violence, its crumbling French colonial buildings, saffron-robed monks, ancient temples and newly emergent gay scene, it is at once characterful, edgy and colourful.

Hopefully this influx of foreigners, along with the country’s fledgling gay scene, does not mean the country will become a magnet for sex tourists as has happened in certain areas of Thailand because Cambodia, like its neighbour, is tolerant of difference in that it has no laws against homosexuality. “About being like Thailand, if that means go-go bars with sex shows, boys with numbers on their underwear waiting to be picked etc, I hope it does not go that way,” said Martin Dishman, managing director of Siem Reap-based One Hotel and also the man behind local gay bar Linga. “Siem Reap is still a small town and gays can be closeted here more so than in Phnom Penh, where I think things have changed quite a bit in terms of the numbers of gay people and their level of connection to a gay community,” he told Fridae.

Like any exotic land slightly on the periphery, Cambodia attracts its fair share of visitors looking if not for enlightenment, then at least adventure. So even though I was an old Asia hand, I arrived in Phnom Penh with a bag of hopes but also weighed down by a little bit of trepidation. Though any lingering misgivings I had about visiting here were disabused as I sat in a bar on the capital’s bustling riverfront downing a breakfast Beer Lao as a former Bangkok associate regaled me with how he had fled Thailand on trumped up drugs charges and ended up working for a non-governmental organisation here. My erstwhile colleague sang the praises of a beautiful country – battered and bruised by conflict – that has found its smile again, likening it to Thailand of 20 years ago. Asked if he had learnt any Khmer, he said he could say “no”, which is useful because of the amount of times tuk tuk or motorbike taxi drivers try to kidnap you for the sake of US$1 – nearly one-third of the country’s 14 million people survive on only 50 cents a day or less.

In the evening I reconvened with my friend in the bar of the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), which was once a crabby gin den for sozzled journalists but has been fully refurbished and this French-built villa is now all whirring ceiling fans, comfy leather chairs and potted palms. Not that the clientele have had much of a makeover. On the veranda overlooking the Tonle Sap river red-faced Westerners entertained their lithe paramours. In fact the scene brought to mind the book Off The Rails in Phnom Penh by Israeli author Amit Gilboa – whom was far from off the rails when I met him recently at a promotional evening for Israel at Singapore’s Zouk nightclub – in which he chronicled the exploits of a motley group of expatriates who spend their days visiting brothels, eating marijuana-topped pizzas, shooting up heroin and letting off rockets at firing ranges. Later in the evening, as we careened through the dimly lit streets in a tuk tuk, beggars lurking in so many shadows, I did get a sense of a dark side.

The next day of my trip standing in the sweltering dust bowl dubbed the Killing Fields where the psychotic regime killed about 20,000 people during its bloody grip between 1975 and 1979 – 1.5 million were estimated to have been murdered overall – was a sobering reminder of how far this friendly, colourful country has come in 30 years and how far it has got to go. Everyone over a certain age seems to have a war story to tell. Our taxi driver Chan Thou, for instance, talked of members of his family being taken away by the regime and him never having seen them again. His commentary as he drove us around the city was normally lighthearted and he talked excitedly of new apartment buildings and hotels going up all over the place but at the Killing Fields a melancholy quiet descended.

One of the main places where the Khmer Rouge tortured those who “threatened” the communist status quo was S-21, which in a horrible irony was a former school and is now a museum and one of the most grisly relics of the regime’s abuses. The trip here felt like a punch to the stomach but it also felt as though it was owed to those that suffered. Walking around in an all-encompassing silence looking at the mugshots of those tortured – including women, children and the elderly – was shocking as they conveyed the fear of the hollowed-eyed victims, which were all diligently photographed by the Khmer Rouge. And the classrooms divided up into claustrophobic torture chambers told their own story.

Away from the horror, Sisowath Quay, a four-kilometre stretch along the Tonle Sap, is where locals and tourists come from sunset and beyond to unwind. It is a hive of activity from about 4pm onwards, with people either sitting and eating al fresco in the gardens opposite or strolling along the front. It is a great place to relax with a beer from one of the local vendors and watch as the city languidly promenades. Also in the area is a smattering of gay nightlife, which emerged with the end of conflict around the turn of the millennium, evidence people are ready to have fun again. Blue Chilli Pub on Phnom Penh’s Street 178, which runs right past the National Museum, is an enjoyable place after dark. They will also order in Western and Khmer food from the decent Ebony Aspara restaurant down the road on request, in fact I enjoyed the best cheeseburger in town here, along with one of the best views as the boys filed past later in the evening.

Away from the capital, my partner and I took a six-hour boat ride from Phnom Penh to the town of Siem Reap, which is next to Angkor and the site of the famous temples – you can go by bus but expect a slow and noisy 5-hour ride from the incessant honking of any and every driver on the road. The boat trip was one of the most exhilarating parts of the trip, watching the Tonle Sap unfolding like a vast glinting sea as it teemed with birdlife and fishing boats. We visited the centrepiece of the 400-square kilometre temple complex – a UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat. Arriving before sunrise and waiting as the starry sky slowly lightened to reveal the splendour of the 12th century temple, framed by the famous five towers was almost a spiritual experience, if you could ignore the rest of the camera-toting mob. It contains a seemingly limitless amount of galleries, which have been painstakingly restored – through generously funded missions – to their true richness and majesty, yet without losing the aura of timelessness.

In fact each of the sites have their own unique appeal, the huge Hindu-Buddhist temple complex as a whole charting the rise and fall of an empire and steeped in the myth and mystery of a period that stretches right back to the ninth century. However as hotelier Martin Dishman said the area does have “sustainability issues”, visitor numbers having hit almost 1 million per year and projected to rise to 3 million by 2010. "I think the problems are manageable and we are working to find solutions for a general management plan for not only the sites but for Siem Reap itself," said UNESCO programme specialist Philippe Delanghe at a recent meeting of 225 scientists, experts and conservationists involved in the restoration and preservation of the ancient Angkor sites.

So if you are travelling to Cambodia expect an adventure as its very lack of infrastructure betrays the fact the country has been war torn for the last few decades. A trip here is a bumpy ride both metaphorically and literally, bearing in mind the potholed roads. The nation still feels very much off the beaten track but in this increasingly globalised world that is what gives it a certain uniqueness and charm.

Robin Newbold is a London-based writer who was formerly based in Bangkok and Singapore and his debut gay novel Vacuum-Packed is available now at

For more on economically, environmentally and socially sustainable tourism in Cambodia visit the World Bank’s and for hotel and bar listings.
Phnom Penh


Foreign Correspondents Club: 363 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh (855 23 210 142),
The Foreign Correspondents Club is good value for money at US$60 per night, with a sizable designer room, which includes a balcony overlooking Sisowath Quay and a hangover-busting fried breakfast each morning in the establishment’s famous lounge. There are only seven rooms here so early booking is essential but the FCC is extending this branch and building another hotel further up the street. There is a stunning sister hotel in Siem Reap – the FCC Angkor.

Bougainvillier Hotel: 277 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh (855 23 220 528)
Billed as “gay friendly”, the well established Bougainvillier Hotel is ideally located on the riverfront at Sisowath Quay and is within walking distance of the Royal Palace and National Museum. Rates from US$81 for a double room.


Blue Chilli Pub: Street 178, Phnom Penh (855 12 566 353)
Blue Chilli Pub is nearby the city’s National Museum and is a fun place after dark. It is an atmospherically lit, intimate bar which while home to locals and expatriates soon makes newcomers feel welcome.

Salt Lounge: Street 136, Phnom Penh (855 12 289 905)
Just a short walk from the bright lights and the more straight-orientated action of Sisowath Quay is the funky Salt Lounge. It is brighter and brasher than Blue Chilli and feels more like a club than a bar with its loud dance music but attracts a good mix of young locals, expats and tourists looking to make new friends.

Green Flame: Street 154, Phnom Penh (855 618 468)
Green Flame is the city’s newest gay bar and feels like it has not quite established itself, since it was not busy when Fridae visited but it’s a homey kind of place with a friendly Vietnamese owner and pleasant outdoor seating for a more chilled vibe.

Heart of Darkness: Street 51, Phnom Penh
The infamous Heart of Darkness just around the corner from Green Flame on Street 51 may have been the place to be about 10 years ago but a Phnom Penh expat associate assures us it is “so over” and has become a sleazy, commercial scene for gay and straight alike. Shootouts have occurred here between local gangsters in the past, so probably not the best place for a quiet drink either.

Siem Reap


Golden Banana: Siem Reap (855 12 654 638)
There is the wonderfully named and gay-owned Golden Banana. The boutique hotel offers comfortable Asian-style apartments for about US$50 per night. There is also more basic bed and breakfast accommodation next door and all guests get to use the relaxing swimming pool and bar area. While a surprising number of straight couples stay here, most of the staff seem away with the fairies and are certainly very friendly.

FCC Angkor: Pokambor Avenue, Siem Reap (855 23 992 284)
Phnom Penh’s Foreign Correspondents Club was behind the development of the stunning FCC Angkor, which is situated in a majestically restored former French consulate building. Prices start at US$90 per night in low season.

The One Hotel Angkor: The Passage, Old Market, Siem Reap (855 12 755 311)
The gay friendly, upmarket One Hotel has also bucked the trend of the town’s role call of faceless properties and has been praised by the likes of Britain’s style bible Wallpaper for its “contemporary tropical design”, which features among other things a rooftop hot tub. From US$250 per night. Managing director Martin Dishman is also behind the nearby Linga bar (see Bars/clubs). If there’s no room available after all there’s only ONE room in the house, visitors can checkout its sister property next door, the three-room Hotel Be (rates from US$95) ( which is one of two Cambodian hotels on the Conde Nast Traveller’s 2008 Hot List.

Viroth’s Hotel: No 246, Wat Bo Street, Siem Reap (855 63 761 720)
This contemporary, nature inspired 7-room boutique hotel is the other Cambodian hotel on the Conde Nast Traveller’s 2008 Hot List. Amenities include a saltwater pool (although it’s within sight of the check-in desk), rooftop jacuzzi and spa. Rates from US$60. Its owners also run the Viroth’s restaurant down the street which is thought to be one of the best restaurants in the city.


With Blue Chilli Siem Reap’s (a branch of the Phnom Penh favourite) closure last month, Linga has become the sole gay bar in the city. This cool, comfortable lounge-type bar is situated down on the same alley (they often don’t give street’s names in Cambodia) as One Hotel and Hotel Be – a short walk from the Old Market.


October 10, 2008

Ethnography Study of Male to Male Sexuality in Cambodia

The Ethnography Study of Male to Male Sexuality in Cambodia was done under the support from UNESCO Office in Phnom Penh. This study was done taking a life history approach of the interviewees in order to understand their ideas and concepts in terms of homosexual relationships and the contexts in which they occur in Cambodia.

This study provides invaluable information to programmers of interventions that will help shape directions for future research and improve the quality of HIV prevention and care projects for MSM in Cambodia.

Read the full report

Challenges in HIV prevention among Cambodian MSMs

by Michael P De Guzman
On October 10 the National MSM Technical Working Group (NMSM-TWG) held its quarterly meeting in Phnom Penh. This working group was convened by the Cambodian National Aids Authority (NAA) to address MSM-related issues on the national response to the HIV/Aids epidemic in Cambodia.

Just over a year old, it is composed of representatives of government, civil society, donors and (supposedly) the MSM community (to the uninitiated, MSM stands for males-who-have-sex-with-males, a behavioural term that arose during the Aids epidemic to connote males who have sex with other males without identifying themselves as gay or bisexual).

Read the full report

29 October 2008

Ladyboys face crackdown: Gay male prostitutes have solicited on Pursat Bridge for a decade, but a police crackdown has forced them into more dangerous parts of town

Pursat Province – The ladyboys of Pursat – gay male prostitutes dressed as women – have been banned from soliciting on the notorious Pursat Bridge, their haunt for at least a decade, but provincial police enforcing the ban say they have the best interests of the prostitutes in mind. "Selling sex is illegal in Cambodia. We are not allowing these prostitutes to conduct business on the bridge anymore because it has a negative impact on residents who live close by," said Lok Sary, chief of the Pursat provincial police force. "We also want to take care of the ladyboys’ health and protect them from HIV/Aids."

Since the police crackdown, the ladyboys have moved their business to the shady gardens surrounding Pursat Lake, particularly a stretch between Pursat Bridge and Speanthmor Garden.

Fresh dangers
But the move has been a difficult one for the more than 50 ladyboys who work in Pursat, according to Srey Lin, 25, who has been a prostitute in the town for two years.

"If we are standing on the Pursat Bridge, it is much safer for us. The police are always nearby, but here we face a lot of problems," she told the Post. "Sometimes young gangsters come by and mistreat us. They try to steal drugs and money, and sometimes they force us to have sex with them for free." Srey Lin works as a hairdresser in the daytime but said she turned to prostitution because she did not earn enough to support herself. She added that most of her clients are older Cambodian men, and that ladyboys usually earn about US$20 a night.

"We work from 8pm until midnight, and when we see the police we all split up and pretend to be visitors," she said. "We have to do this job secretly because we are looked down on by the wider community, especially the women, but we conduct our business properly: We only go over to a man if he stops his moto near us. We do not sit or stand on the edge of the road and call out to clients."

Rotana, an employee at the Phnom Pich Hotel, which faces the bridge, says she is pleased the ladyboys have moved on, viewing them as a threat to decent society. "I think the police made the right decision moving the ladyboys from Pursat Bridge," she said. "This province is unsafe today because of the anarchy of these gay groups. They always used to fight with gangsters on the bridge. Even though police banned them from the bridge, I can still hear them calling out from the gardens and I think police should ban them from there too."

Klem Sokoun, chief of the Pursat provincial health department, said his office is growing increasingly worried about the spread of HIV/Aids through gay brothels. He said it is conducting research into the brothels and that a crackdown is likely to begin soon.

November 2008

Sexual practices and knowledge of HIV/STI transmission among men who have sex with men

by S. Eng
Background: The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Cambodian general population has declined in recent years, but health workers warn that there is little room for complacency. According to a survey by the Cambodian National Centre for HIV/AIDS Dermatology and STDs, the HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Phnom Penh is 8.7% with the potential for the sexual networking behavior of MSM with men and women to further spread HIV. In conservative Cambodia, this includes at-risk men who state they are not gay, but “just like having sex with men.” Prior to work with a local MSM, a study was implemented by Pact Cambodia to measure the knowledge of HIV/STI transmission among self-identified MSM, and describe MSM sexual practices.

Methods: The research was a cross-sectional among MSM group. The respondent sample was selected randomly from 191 out of 563 self-identified MSM located in four provinces in Cambodia. A survey tool, designed in collaboration with sub-grantees working with MSM, was used to gather data throughout October, 2007.

Results: Close to half of the MSM respondents (45%) were between 20 and 24 years of age; with 47.9% still in secondary school. 46.3% of them had sex with a sweetheart and 45.33% had sex with casual male partners. Interestingly, 21.10% had sex with female sex workers and female casual partners. However, only 36.6% stated they understood HIV and STI transmission and 21.2% reported never using a condom when having sex with a sweetheart; 46.9% reported using a condom correctly when they chose to use one.

Conclusions: The result of this study is important for program intervention. It has identified key issues in the Cambodian context which must be addressed and emphasized the importance of additional research on hidden MSM.