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Cambodia to investigate alleged police abuse of sex workers

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's top anti-trafficking official Wednesday pledged an immediate investigation after sex workers tearfully alleged a new zero tolerance policy on brothels had led to rapes, robberies and abuses of human rights by police.

More than 100 sex workers and representatives gathered to urge the government to ease new legislation that makes brothels illegal and has resulted in scores of sex workers being rounded up by police.

'Among the sex workers who were detained ... some were living with HIV/AIDS and needed treatment every day, but were unable to obtain it,' Chan Dina from the Cambodia Prostitute Union said.

'Some were beaten and gang raped by guards, and most of the time they did not wear condoms,' Dina said. 'How can we reduce the AIDS epidemic if the guards keep raping women?'

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the region, and rights groups said the new legislation was forcing sex workers away from education and health services and onto the streets.

Interior Ministry Anti-Trafficking Chief Bith Kimhong said the allegations were new to him and he doubted their veracity, but pledged a full and immediate investigation.

He said the government was only detaining brothel owners and managers for significant periods, and police were only 're-educating' prostitutes and some male patrons.

Cambodia, once known as a haven for pedophiles and a hotspot in the region's flesh trade, implemented new legislation earlier this year which sex workers say equates consensual sex work with human trafficking and is too broad.

Kimhong said he remained determined to close down brothels.

Source: Monsters and Critics.com - USA