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In Cambodia, those tasked with upholding the law are often those who inflict some of the worst abuse. Sex workers in particular know this to be true. Women and girls involved in sex work face beatings, rape, sexual harassment, extortion, arbitrary arrest and detention, forced labor, and other cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of police, public park security guards, government officials, and those working in the centers and offices run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation MOSAVY.
Sex workers told Human Rights Watch that police officers beat them with their fists, sticks, wooden handles, and batons that administer electric shocks. Police officers also threatened sex workers with guns. In several instances, police officers raped sex workers while they were in police detention. Some sex workers described being detained in Social Affairs centers under horrific conditions, with restricted freedom of movement, experiencing or witnessing beatings or rapes, and inadequate food and medical care.
Violence and most other abuses perpetrated by police appeared to be worse in Phnom Penh than in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap, the other provinces where Human Rights Watch conducted research. These stations have the most interaction with sex workers because they are located close to the public parks frequented by many sex workers.
Police extortion and demands for bribes were common in all provinces where Human Rights Watch conducted research. Police officers sometimes forced sex workers to pay a sum of money, or in the worst cases, forced sex workers to have sex with them in exchange for being released.
Sex workers told Human Rights Watch that police took their money and other valuables. Every sex worker that we spoke to, including children involved in such work, had paid bribes to the police at some point. In Phnom Penh, police are not the only security force abusing sex workers. Sex workers also reported to Human Rights Watch incidents of violence involving municipal security guards at public parks. She said:. Some of the incidents of violence, illegal arrest and detention perpetrated against sex workers are opportunistic.