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"A WOUNDED LIFE" A Young Khmer Girl Sold Into Prostitution

 

Pou with her brides maid will be sold into prostitution - UNESCO photo

 

Sorn tries to persuade the family to change their minds - UNESCO photo

 

Prostitutes try to comfort the distraught Pou - UNESCO photo

 

 

 

 


James Loving/National Radio Text Service

 

UNESCO's Fred Frumberg's role is Production Management for the Performing Arts who assisted in the production of the play. He explained why such a topic was undertaken and its purpose.

 

A YOUNG KHMER GIRL IS TRICKED INTO MARRIAGE AND SOLD TO BE A PROSTITUTE

Sunday July 15, 2001

Sex trafficking is a common occurrence in Cambodia and other parts of Asia. "A Wounded Life" is a play about that subject. The theatrical production is based on true case studies in today's Cambodian society and was written by Cambodians. Its performers are students and instructors from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh.

"A Wounded Life" tells the story of an extremely poor Khmer family from a rural area Cambodian village that sell their youngest daughter, Neang Pou to marry a rich businessman. They hope that she will have a better life. The woman who arranged the marriage turned out to be a sex trafficker.

Against her will the Pou is torn away from her young boyfriend, Mr. Sorn, who intended to marry her. Sorn tries to stop Pou's father from selling her but to no avail.

On their wedding night Pou is miserable and begged to be set free so she may return to her boyfriend. The husband drugs and seduces her. He then sells her to a brothel for much more money than his purchase price.

In a scene at the brothel Pou is seen screaming and crying, terrified about her situation. The other prostitutes gather around her to try and comfort her.

In the mean time Sorn and his friends investigate the matter. With the help of several women's associations and the police Sorn comes to Pou's rescue. In doing so he frees several of the other girls… thus… a happy ending.

It was a happy ending to a sad situation. In reality the conclusion seems hard to believe and not a real story. Many who experience the same plight are not as lucky to be set free.

Prior to viewing the performance I read first half of the script. I was told the play would be easy to follow without reading it. I found that difficult to do at one point.

After the break the second half contained the scene showing the husband abusing the girl. Many males in the audience yelled in approval. Since I didn't know the dialog I found the audience reaction to that situation very strange. A member of the Women's Crisis Center, explained to me, that's the way they think.

The actors gave a commendable presentation. Given the language barrier [I don't understand the Khmer language] I could only base an opinion of the quality of acting on emotion, projection, facial expressions and execution of their lines.

Pom Salida played the part of Miss Pou. She had a tendency to overact but was effective in her role. Other featured actors were Ea Chanpisal as Mr. Sorn, Ea Sokhan, the wealthy businessman; Nou Sondab, the mother; Lor San, the father; Cehn Chanthet, the sex trafficker. The girls in the brothel were performed by, Phog Savi, Phog Savin and Khul Tith Chenda.

The Cambodians Women's Crisis Center and the Women's Media Center of Cambodia served as the theatrical productions project advisers. UNESCO helped in putting the project together.

UNESCO's Fred Frumberg's role is Production Management for the Performing Arts who assisted in the production of the play. He explained why such a topic was undertaken and its purpose.

"The play was sponsored by the Asia foundation [funded by USAID]," he said. "One of their projects here is supporting, trying to help women who are victims of sex trafficking. It's a very big issue here in Cambodia.

"We decided to use the performing arts… in this case modern theater as a vehicle to try to educate the audience about how it happens and hopefully how to prevent it in the future."

Frumberg noted the target audience they were trying to reach.

"The Khmer audience, people who are the general public so they are more aware of their own social conflicts," he said. "But also, trying to target people who are actually either victims themselves or people who might possibly be traffickers themselves or may one day become traffickers. Try to teach them what might happen to them should they ever become traffickers."

Frumberg pointed out how the project came together.

"Asia Foundation, one of the many things they do in Cambodia is to work with and help find funding for organizations such as the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center that deal with the issues of trafficking.

"Having spoken to me over that last couple of years about possible performing arts projects as they apply to the work that [the Women's Crisis Center does] here in Cambodia they realized that this was one topic that would translate extremely well into the performing arts."

The play was filmed by the Cambodian Women's Media Center. It was then televised on five Cambodian television stations. At this point there is no intention of televising the program with subtitles outside of Cambodia.

"That could be an interesting thing at some point," Frumberg said. "Our primary intention now is to try and do a national tour here in Cambodia.

This is a play that really targets very specifically an audience that is dealing with this issue right here in Cambodia. The primary goal and urgency is to make it be seen by as many Cambodians as possible."

Frumberg noted that the performances were seen by a cross section of the population.

"The people who came which really scanned the entire gamut of the very poor to people who have been involved with trafficking, to police, people from the army, even politicians.

"We had the Minister of Women's Affairs attend the opening night and she herself was the first one to say that this show must go on the road in Cambodia."

Many young girls are tricked into becoming prostitutes. Marriage to a rich man isn't the only lure that parents are told by sex traffickers to secure the services of their daughters. They are also told that their daughters will be working as a waitress or some other legitimate job.

Theatrical opportunities in Cambodia are rare. Once known for its movies and theaters it was virtually wiped out from the decades of civil unrest.

That left the question of what was UNESCO's interest in theater. Frumberg explained.

"UNESCO is realizing that Cambodia has a lot of very powerful and important living artists. Culture in Cambodia is not only about the temple preservation although of course it's a very important about this countries cultural heritage and it's a very important part of tourist development which is very key to the development to this country.

"Now that we do have a University of Fine Arts which focuses on the performing arts and we have a Minister of Culture who she herself was a dancer back in the sixties [Princess Norodom Bopha Devi] so UNESCO has taken a much taken a much stronger interest in the performing arts as an acknowledgment to the fact that this is a very vital part of Cambodian cultural heritage."

© Copyright: National Radio. Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com

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