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Our car turns right down a steep and bumpy hill, and at the bottom we are jolted back to reality. What look like rundown garages lining a back alley are really brothels full of young girls.
Wearing tight clothes and bright lipstick, several sashay over to the car. None of them looks older than 14, but they come on like seasoned streetwalkers, licking their lips and thrusting their tiny chests forward. A shirtless boy, who is maybe 10, pushes himself to the front and gestures for me to roll down the window. Sitting in another car is Shuvaloy Majumdar, co-chair of The Future Group, a Calgarybased non-profit organization fighting the sex trade.
He leans out his window and lies, telling the boy he wants a girl much younger than those on the street. Majumdar has brought me to Svay Pak to show the scale of the child-sex trade, and he knows that children as young as four are available but kept hidden by their pimps in an attempt to avoid police raids.
After a brief conversation in Vietnamese with a rough-looking brothel manager, the boy leads Majumdar and three others down a narrow pathway to a small cabin. Inside, Majumdar takes a seat in a creaky metal chair beside a stained mattress. At first, the girls stand silently and rigidly together. The pimp slaps one on the back of the head and the girls begin to awkwardly and unenthusiastically flirt with Majumdar.
But when a photographer who has accompanied Majumdar begins to take some pictures, the pimp and his bodyguards draw guns, think-. Thinking fast, the visitors defuse the situation by telling the angry pimp the pictures are for their businessorganizing sex tours out of Thailand. The ruse works and the danger passes.