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Monday, March 17, 2008

$10,000 is a lot of money but i'm desperate

Swedish mother hopes Thai or Cambodian police will help reunite her with missing daughter Alicia, now believed to be with her father

A Swedish mother who has come to Thailand to try to find her missing daughter is offering a US$10,000 (Bt314,000) reward for information that leads to the return of her six-year-old girl.

Maria Elfversson, 35, announced the reward at a press conference in Bangkok yesterday. The girl was allegedly abducted by her father nine months ago.

Ms Elfversson, from Gothenburg, Sweden, hopes the reward will motivate Thai or Cambodian people to help locate her daughter Alicia.

She claims her former partner, Norwegian Torgeir Nordbo, 47, abducted Alicia on June 4, 2007 and took her to Cambodia.

The missing girl and her father were reportedly living in the seaside resort of Sihanoukville until last month.

But her mother suspects they may be in Thailand because Nordbo has numerous properties and businesses in and around Jomtien.

Police come up empty-handed

Nordbo has been charged with abduction in Sweden, and is wanted by Interpol. But taking your own child is not regarded as a crime in Cambodia.

Elfversson told reporters yesterday: "Neither the police nor authorities have been able to find out which country he has taken her to. I therefore want to make this plea for help.

"The hope is that we can get Alicia back - that the international police will be able to find her."

She said the reward was a lot of money for her and her family, but admitted she was desperate to get her daughter back.

The abduction of Alicia has been front-page news in Sweden and Norway, particularly after it was reported that the missing girl appeared to have been living with her father in Sihanoukville.

A Swedish policewoman based in Bangkok has already been to Cambodia to try to find the missing girl, but wasn't able to locate her or Nordbo.

A TV crew from Sweden's Channel 4 was due to arrive last night to report on the search for Alicia. They are due to travel to Cambodia tomorrow.

By Jim Pollard

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Cambodia blacklists home-wrecking songs: media

TOKYO, March 17 (Reuters Life!) - Cambodian entertainment watchdogs have blacklisted three songs, arguing that they could encourage women to pursue other women's husbands, a Japanese news agency reported on Monday.

The Khmer Arts Association and the Cambodian Television Association said the songs -- "If I Can't be Your First Wife, Can I be Your Second?", "I Love Another's Husband" and "May I Have a Piece of Your Heart?" -- were demeaning to women, Kyodo news agency said in a dispatch.

"The songs are meant to put down women and their dignity," Kyodo quoted Ieng Sithol, president of the Khmer Arts Association, as saying. "As lovers of the arts, artists should act properly or we will be criticized by the public."

Artists are banned from singing the songs at concerts, on radio or television. Kyodo said the decision had upset some fans who felt that it unfairly targeted female singers.

Similar songs sung by men, such as "How beautiful! Whose Wife is She?" and "Even If She is Someone Else's Wife, That's OK" can still be performed freely.

(Reporting by Sophie Hardach; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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Child sex trade: The sad truth

The nation of Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia, just west of Vietnam. It is largely underdeveloped, poverty stricken, and lacks a strong central government.

To support themeselves, many Cambodians live and work on farms, or in factories. In a nation where the average annual salary is around $350 a year, some citizens turn to illegal activities such as narcotics or the sex trade to make money.

Brothels have been an easy way to generate revenue for Cambodian pimps since the early 1900's. When the United Nations (UN) entered Cambodia, sending troops to supervise the country's transition to the current democratic government, there was a large demand for prostitutes. Not long after the UN left, brothel owners discovered that they could market young girls to huge numbers of foreign clientele.

Today the sex trade in Cambodia is one of the largest money making businesses in the nation.

Out of an estimated 20,000 sex workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, the average age is around 15.

According to the U.S. State Department, sex trafficking is becoming a bigger business worldwide than drug trafficking. This means that every day thousands of young girls and boys are bought and sold into slavery.

The big question is, how do these young people find themselves as sex slaves?

According to a recent MSNBC article, one of the most popular ways of recruiting is by promising young girls steady work and shelter, an appealing prospect for girls who hope to help their families with much needed income. When they agree, they are brought to the brothel and sold for money. Because many young women in Cambodia are homeless and uneducated, one can imagine how easy this type of recruiting is. It is also not uncommon for a struggling family to sell one of their own children into the sex trade. The article reported that one woman recalls being tricked and sold to a brothel by her newly wed husband for $200.

The majority of brothels are usually filthy, run down shacks, that offer subhuman living conditions. Upon arrival, the young women are usually beaten, cadged and drugged.

Dateline also reported that, it is also common for the pimps to show pornography to the youngest women, as "educational" background so they know how to service a paying customer. Because Cambodia is ravaged with HIV, AIDS, and numerous sexually transmitted diseases, it is considered good luck for a Cambodian man to have sex with a virgin. Because of this, it is not uncommon for the young girls to have their hymen re-stitched so that they can be sold as virgins more than once for a larger sum. Their ages range from 4 and up.

CNN recently reported that, a young girl only fifteen who was recently rescued from a brothel testified that she had been "locked in a cage," and forced to service at least fifteen customers a day. If she objected she was starved, and shocked with electric rods. She was also given a methamphetamine tablet several times a day to cloud her memory and keep her in an altered state.

What is being done?

There have been numerous efforts by both internal and external organizations to break up the sex trade in Cambodia, but the struggle is far from over. The Cambodian government has set up an anti-trafficking department, but it is poorly funded, and many of the enforcement officers partake in the illegal activity themselves, such as taking handouts and tipping off the brothel owners.

For the girls who do find a way out of the sex trade, many of them turn to specialized shelters, which are dedicated to the rehabilitation of the young women. Here they receive both medical and psychological attention. The sad truth is that most of these girls die at a young age because of AIDS or other physical problems. Also a large number of the girls end up leaving and returning to a life of prostitution because it is the only thing they know.

Most of these young women have been exploited and abused on a daily basis for the majority of their lives. They have been stripped of their basic human rights, and demoralized to the point where there is nothing left but an empty shell. The United States and other developed countries have a moral obligation to educate and hold Cambodia to ensuring basic human rights for all.
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