After questioning us, the police pushed me into a room where there was a
folding bed—it is for detaining criminal suspects. I was raped by five police
officers on the first night and by six other police officers on the second night.
They beat me while raping me because I protested.
—Female sex worker describing her treatment after being arrested with other
sex workers near Independence Monument park in Phnom Penh
Three police officers beat me up seriously… One of the police officers pointed
his gun at my head and pulled the trigger, but the bullet did not fire. They
kicked my neck, my waist and hit me on my head and body with a broom
stick. It lasted about half an hour.
—Transgender woman sex worker at a Phnom Penh police station
Two days after my arrival, I was caught when I tried to escape. Five guards
beat me up. When I used my arms to shield my face and head from their
blows, they beat my arms. The guard threatened to slit our throats if we tried
to escape a second time, and said our bodies would be cremated there.
—Female sex worker detained at the Prey Speu Social Affairs center, near
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.
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