After drugs and arms trading, the £4 billion global sex trade business comes in third in illegal trade. An estimated 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked in this way per annum, according to the US State Department. I witnessed for myself several instances in Iasi in Romania on the Moldavian border and then in Moldova's capital Kishinev: burly, blurry-eyed men in their 40s shacked up in hotels with waif-like 18-year-olds waiting to be transported on. The contrasts in Kishinev are stark. The main thoroughfares have some faded class and a mix of garish bars, clubs and shrill advertising. In the evening, you see hoards of scantily dressed young women, the target of the traffickers. Immediately off the main roads there is no street lighting and you are enveloped in gloom. The European Parliament estimates that around 4000 women a year are trafficked to Denmark and over 10,000 to the UK. Many come from Eastern Europe but others increasingly from places like Thailand, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Often they are sold on to work as prostitutes who can make several thousand pounds a week for their pimps and are effectively imprisoned in our major cities. The London Metropolitan Police estimate some are forced to see between 30 and 40 clients per day. It is estimated that only 19 per cent of prostitutes in
London are British: 25 per cent are Eastern Europeans and 13 per cent are of Southeast Asian origin.
Pattya, 100 miles east of Bangkok, where the streets are lined with go-go bars and where English-style pubs display signs declaring 'lager louts welcome', teems with prostitutes. Of the 200,000 inhabitants, it is estimated that 100,000 have some kind of connection to sex tourism. Pattya's population virtually doubles during the winter months, when affluent European and American tourists - many of them well past middle age - flee the cold of their own countries to seek the warm weather and sensual pleasures of Pattya. Three decades ago, Pattya was an obscure fishing village. With the advent of the Vietnam War, it became a popular recreation resort for American marines based at nearby Sattaship; their weekend escapades sowed the seeds of the sex industry. From that beginning, prostitution spread like wildfire. Because of the enormous financial success of sex tourism, thousands of young women and girls barely into their teens come from the impoverished villages of northern Thailand to seek the easy money. Even women and girls from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam are brought to work in the sex shops. And lurking behind the lure of pleasure lies endless violence.
Cambodia has become a favoured destination for paedophiles since Thailand, previously the most notorious centre of under-age sex, began a crackdown on child prostitution two years ago. The paedophiles come from America, Canada, Australia, Holland and Germany, as well as Britain. Svay Pak, the infamous brothel area 11km north of central Phnom Penh, is the epicentre. 'Out here you can get anything, you do what the fuck you like, girl, boy, two-year-old baby, whatever you want. Nobody cares.'67 And Pattya and Svay Pak are just at the apex of many more towns and cities across the region that rely on sex and have lost their dignity.
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