Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day One: Arrival in Cambodia
December 12th, 2013
02:31 PM ET

Mira’s Cambodia Journal – Day One: Arrival in Cambodia

Editor’s note: Mira Sorvino, a human rights activist and Academy Award winning actress, went to Cambodia with the CNN Freedom Project to expose child sexual exploitation. This is an edited journal from her week in the country.

By Mira Sorvino, Special to CNN

Phnom Penh, Cambodia (CNN) – We have just landed in Phnom Penh, to begin one of the most important journeys I have ever embarked upon.

I have been an activist on the issue of human trafficking since 2004, the year I was expecting my first of four children. I was spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, which brought the issue of modern-day slavery to light for me. Before this, I was blissfully unaware that slavery was alive and well – it had just gone underground. Meeting survivors of human trafficking changed my life, and deepened my commitment to fighting this terrible scourge that affects most every country around the world.

Since 2009 I have been a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador Against Human Trafficking, one of the greatest honors and challenges of my life. I have interviewed scores of survivors in many countries, as well as government officials, NGO workers, law enforcement and even a man responsible for sex trafficking about 4,000 girls from Latin America to European club-brothels.

I've also partnered with the CNN Freedom Project several times; this time I'm taking off my UN hat and joining forces with CNN to present this documentary. We are here to see why Cambodia continues be a hub of child sex trafficking and virgin sales, and what we can do to help expose the problem and suggest solutions.
I’ve never been to Cambodia, though I made a fictional movie, “Trade of Innocents,” about child sex trafficking in Cambodia (shot in nearby Thailand). I am excited to discover this new place, but feel trepidation over delving into our heartbreaking topic.

After driving to our Phnom Penh hotel amidst a swarm of mopeds - or “motos” as they’re called here, some with families of five crowded on top - we decided to beat the jet lag by doing a little tourism.

As we boarded a boat for a river tour, we immediately noticed the long, narrow, covered boat homes of ethnic Vietnamese. They live in Cambodia without official status, and spend most of their lives on their boats –families living and working in these small vessels, children swimming and bathing in dirty-looking water. We pass floating houses, with netted fish holding areas underneath.

Corruption is endemic at every level of society here, an expert tells me – adding that every brothel here operates with the help of the police or military.
I have a deep sense of foreboding of the world we are about to enter, the suffering of children being used by men in unspeakably cruel manners. We may meet a few survivors, but knowledge that hundreds or thousands of others still endure the misery of repeated rape in dank, fetid rooms in neighborhoods nearby - and we would not be able to save them.

I have met child survivors before, and been haunted by them, unable to sleep as their faces and deep stares burned themselves into my memory.

I am afraid. But those memories are what drive me to fight for an end to this sexual slavery. I feel ready to face tomorrow's challenges, whatever they may be.

Next: Day Two – Meeting Heroes and Survivors


soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Phil

    I'm sorry to say this, but this just seems so fake to me. Nobody cares that these people live in terrible poverty. Nobody cares that with our knowledge and technology we could easily provide every person on earth with food and housing. Most of the time our country only sees these people as potential slave labour for factories. But suddenly, once you start throwing around the words "woman" and "children", pampered white rich girls from the West flock in like fairy god mothers. PLEASE! If we are suddenly going to acknowledge that these people are human we should be doing something to improve their quality of life instead of getting all up in their business and flicking out index fingers at them.

    December 13, 2013 at 1:06 am | Reply
    • Shari

      Phil, Do you have a suggestion for how to improve their quality of life? I am a white woman from the west, and I went there earlier this year and saw the situation for myself. While I do not have a clue about how to solve the many problems that I witnessed, it has raised my awareness as well as the awareness of others around me. Getting people to care can happen in many different ways. I challenge you to "care" for just one day and see what creative actions you can take to help– even if your efforts feel minuscule. Best, Shari

      December 13, 2013 at 10:03 am | Reply
      • Phil

        First of all, you can drop the veiled insult , "challenge you to care". I don't why women feel the need to poison the debate with such cheap shots. Of course I care. Does Mira Sorvino care? Does she really? Or is it more about making HER feel better? About giving HER a self-esteem boost disguised as helping OTHER people? I would love to help these people. I would love to help all people poor in all countries, because I was born as poor and as disadvantaged as they come. But it's not going to happen, because my fellow citizens are selfish. If we elected intelligent leaders who made decisions based on science, we could industrialize and employ the entire world. But that's not our world. We live in a world where everyone says, "mine, mine, mine" and sabotages anyone less fortunate than themselves. We elect morons with IQs of 80 to office and let corporations buy their loyalty. We live in a world where people are too busy trading insults over the internet instead of actually listening to each other and trying to understand their position. That's the real world.

        December 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm |
      • Christopher Minko

        http://peoplethingsliterature.com/2014/02/17/krom-me-twice-a-conversation-with-christopher-minko-part-ii/

        February 18, 2014 at 12:26 am |
    • Mark

      I agree. This is FAR more complex than 'women selling daughters are bad'. This is a DESPERATELY poor area, with poorly educated people with completely different values, facing daily challenges rich, white Westerners have no way of appreciating.

      December 13, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • Howard

      Phil,
      Mira Sovino is a very wealthy and successful western female. I doubt she has to venture into Cambodia if it is all about boosting her self-esteem. We do not know what she can really do to change the lives of these unfortunate young children but at the least she speaks up and brings it to the awareness of some of us. I can appreciate your skepticism toward wealthy western nations and I am sure your sarcasm rings some truth in it. However, I do not think it is fair of you to jump to assumption about Sovino without knowing in full details of what she did or did not do.

      December 14, 2013 at 2:15 am | Reply
      • Phil

        Sarcasm? You want sarcasm? I'll give you sarcasm. Mira Sorvino. What a hero! The way she took a plane to cambodia to do a fluff piece for cnn. Incredible! She solved poverty! No one will ever have to turn tricks to eat again. So much awareness was spread this day! What an inspiration! Do u know how hard it is for a pretty blonde girl whose father is a famous actor to get a role in a major hollywood movie? What a genius!

        December 14, 2013 at 2:31 am |
      • mattk

        I am actually with Phil on this one. It always seems to urck me when celebs do things like this because showing up in a country for a week or so to do photo ops, maybe do a little charity work and hand out toys to kids. It doesn't do jack except everyone goes "isn't she such a nice woman using her time to do charitable work?". The people who do the real work there don't do photo ops or write fluff pieces for CNN. They are the red cross workers helping out when there's a flood or terrible storm. The western doctors who go there to treat people with very curable illnesses for free. Heck, even the missionaries that go there to build schools and houses (religious beliefs aside). Those are the actual heroes.
        Not Mira Sorvino spending a few days with a camera crew, flying over first classes and probably staying in a nice hotel.

        December 14, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Miles

      Dead right Phil, It was only a few weeks ago I was in Cambodia... The only time I ever saw any white faces was in Tuk, Tuks, on their was from their 4 star hotel to some tourist spot. You could see them a mile away because their noses were so far up in the air. I am disgusted with my own past ignorance.... the problem is OUR western world and culture that exploits 3rd world countries and always had, all for the greed of people in those Western countries. Western civilization stinks. I am going back to Cambodia because at least these are real people. Sure they try and scam all of a couple of dollars, but at least they do it with a smile, not like the Western corporate scammers who scam billions from those who can least afford it...

      December 14, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  2. NGO IS NEXT DOOR TALIBAN

    Everybody can sell.

    Rich people sell by rich ways.

    Poor people sell by poor ways.

    They trade each other.

    Who can make sure actors and actress and government officers in this world do not sell children or a part of selling child ?

    December 13, 2013 at 1:58 am | Reply
  3. Ratanayano Bhikkhu

    The amount of pain and suffering in this world is already too much to bear, and the least we, those of us who are unable to take away some of it, could do is stop sending out more negative thoughts and harsh words that serve no purpose other than to bring about more pain and suffering. I beg you.

    December 14, 2013 at 3:40 am | Reply
    • Phil

      This is what little people don't understand. This isn't about being mean or being funny, it's about cutting through all the bull and actually addressing the problem. The only thing that's going to fix these people's problems is if we go in there, install a technocratic government and industrialize the nation. If we aren't talking about doing that, then everyone should just shut the F up and stop indulging their unmerited superiority complex.

      December 14, 2013 at 3:50 am | Reply
      • S. Andersen

        Absolutely true! It's not cruel or mean to be brutally honest – and the situations in developing nations that put all these woman at risk and in jeopardy are not serviced by 'celebrity slumming' ... in fact it may well serve to misdirect legitimate focus! Yes Ms. Ratanayano Bhikku the amount of pain and suffering in the world is already too much to bear – so let's not pat attention seeking celebrity narcissists on the back when they aren't really fixing the problem AT ALL... but boosting their own ego and futures: the problem is far too serious!

        December 14, 2013 at 5:31 am |
      • Ratanayano Bhikkhu

        I thank you, my friend. Over the last 30 years of my life I've asked Jesus many, many times: "Is it absolutely necessary?" And the reply is always "Yes!" I've never truly understood him, but this time I really do. Yes, young man, you will have the last word. Show the world your very best!

        December 14, 2013 at 5:50 am |
      • Mark

        Phil,

        In all fairness, you should take a little of your own medicine. I completely agree with most of your points, especially the one about people should spend less time trading insults and more thinking of solutions. However, your 'solution' is not necessarily the right one and I don't think telling people to shut the F up unless they follow your solution is helpful?

        Personally, I THINK this is about
        education and opportunity to get people out of the desperate poverty that creates situations where mothers think their only solution is to sell their children and
        serious consequences for the animals that prey on young children.

        I do NOT think corruption or paedophilia is going to disappear with or without a different government.

        December 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
      • Phil

        What can I say? I can't layout a full report on a comment board. Industrialization allowed women to work outside the home and created a surplus of material wealth. This predates girls in schools, girls in universities, girls in board rooms, girls voting. The very first factories employed women, from the beginning of the industrial revolution. Every country where women have it good is or was industrialized at some point. Every country where women have it hard didn't industrialize or is just beginning too. If you don't know history I don't have time to teach you. But prove that any of my statements above are wrong and I might listen to you.

        December 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
      • Mark

        Phil,

        I think you are over-simplifying. There are many 'industrialised' countries where women are still exploited. Thailand, Central Europe, Former Russia etc. Inequality of earnings, culture, education, corruption and the rule of law all play a part.

        December 14, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
      • Phil

        Thailand – recently industrialized 15 years ago. Current Prime Minister is a woman. Yeah, no progress for women there.
        Central Europe/Russia – Has the lowest birth rates in the world, a pretty good indication women are not house slaves and baby makers there. Women have all the major rights there: the vote, education, driver's license...etc..
        So try again. Find me an industrialized nation where women can't vote, can't drive, can't work outside the home, can't marry who they want, can't hold political office, can't be doctors, can't be lawyers, etc...

        December 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
      • person

        I know I'm a little late to the conversation, but if any of you feel as strongly as you do about these horrible things that are happening in Cambodia then do something about it. Don't just sit here on your computer cyber-arguing because you have nothing better to do. You're over here slamming Mira Sorvino about how she's just doing this to make her feel good and look good but so what if she is. At least she is doing something to raise awareness about what's going on. Which, might I add, is a whole lot better than what you're doing.

        September 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm |
      • Phillip

        1 – I do not "feel" anything about this topic. I don't know these people. I never met them. It's not emotional. I'm simply looking at the situation objectively and making a rational observation.
        2 – You can't discredit my argument because I lack the resources of a millionaire, having neither the time nor money to devote myself to pet projects in remote countries.
        3 – You say she's "at least raising awareness". I would say one could make a strong argument that "raising awareness" (whatever that means) is the same as doing nothing at all. Everybody knows the US has a gun problem, but the knowledge of that fact has led to directly jack all being done about it. Awareness does not equal action. And although we can't be sure, I bet if you ask Cambodians which they would rather have: a celebrity taking a finger-wagging tour of their misery from the comfort of her rental car or people championing modernization of their economy, I'm willing to bet they'd prefer the latter.

        September 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
    • Howard

      Ratanayano,
      All that I have seen thus far is Sovino actually doing something.....even if that something was merely scratching the surface and not resolving a complex issue.
      On the other hand, you have a loud mouth, no name, nobody trying to make a name for himself as Phil in cyberspace by touting profanity and negative comments. This individual needs self-esteem and anger management.

      That's all there is to it. I would not bother to dignify his posting with a response.

      December 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  4. say

    please, guy i'm khmer and live in the EU, an little suport from every body cane help. go over there and creat more job give them salary over 150 dollar/ mond ,now thye have about 35 dollar/ mond.

    So what do you thing ??

    December 14, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  5. john

    Phil you've obviously never been there nor do you seem to know the culture or rich history of the Khmers ...you say go in and industrialize the country and that is your solution...it's fkn colonialism like that that caused Cambodias problems. As for your treatise on Mira...what a waste of breath..obviously you gained nothing from the info her report provided but others may have been enlightened and may even be moved to do some good like the people in the report.

    December 14, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Reply
    • Phil

      What can I say? I can't layout a full report on a comment board. Industrialization allowed women to work outside the home and created a surplus of material wealth. This predates girls in schools, girls in universities, girls in board rooms, girls voting. The very first factories employed women, from the beginning of the industrial revolution. Every country where women have it good is or was industrialized at some point. Every country where women have it hard didn't industrialize or is just beginning too. If you don't know history I don't have time to teach you. But prove that any of my statements above are wrong and I might listen to you.

      December 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  6. NGO IS NEXT DOOR TALIBAN

    I want to read about CORRUPTION investigating in CAMBODIA, VIET – NAM.

    NOT these stories.

    These stories do not make people freedom anything.

    Or you want to target some benefits ?

    December 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  7. Ted

    The solution to fixing these problems is people need to stop being greedy and that something it can't be fix easily. As much I hate to say, the society needs people of all levels. There have to be the rich, middle, and poor for it to function properly. However I am against the human traffic issue that occurs and that something their government should intervene, if not then there is a problem because of humane issue. As for Mira, she is just speaking of her thoughts and values on the issue. Even though we don't know what kind of contribution she has given, but I think it a start that we need to be aware of things around us. It's fortunate that some of us are still here writing these posts , while others are in worst conditions.

    December 15, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Reply
    • Phil

      "There has to be a rich, middle, and poor for it to function properly" Really? You really believe that. So let's imagine there weren't 300 million people in the US, there's was only 30. You and your relatives. You all lived together in a small village. You're saying the only way that village could function is if 1 person owned all the land and some people had to work like slaves? There would be no middle ground here? You would say "Sorry Uncle Tom, but you and your family have to live in a shack and give me all the food you grow, because that's the only way society can function?"

      December 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Reply
      • Ted

        Is the world population small or big? If there weren't rich folks and middle class opening up businesses then poor people working then how does it function you tell me. Why don't we all be equal and share the wealth Sorry little Phil, but it doesn't work that way. You on the hand like to be smart ass and trying to insult everyone, seriously you need to take anger management class.

        December 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
      • Phil

        Am I the one breaking down in a hissy-fit because he can't wrap his head around what I am saying? Am I the one hurling insults? Am I the one simply regurgitating conservative talking points from Mitt Romney's campaign instead of thinking for myself? Need I remind that the people who founded the United States came here with nothing. They didn't arrive and say, "Oh woe is me, there's one rich people to open businesses, I guess we should all just pack up and go back to England?" What about the United States from 1940-1960, when there was much less inequality? Did the economy function then? Did people starve to death then? What about today? The rich have never been richer, ever, in history. Are people better off now then they were 30 years ago? Is the middle class better off, is the poor better off?

        December 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm |
    • Mark

      Ted,

      I'm with Phil on tho sone. There is no economic model that says there have to be rich and poor. No-one needs to be so poor they sell their own children to eat. Models where the rich depend on poor (e.g.. WalMart or Apple or Nike) are evil.

      December 16, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  8. Christopher Minko

    http://www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3D2Wy1xBXGYzc

    December 16, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Reply
  9. rose sigut

    if a girl child is sold, there has to be a male buyer. its not the women we have to fix it the men.

    December 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
    • Miles

      The real issue is poverty, lack of education and lack of opportunity. This is the major issue. And there are as many women as there are men in the Western World, who are quite happy to buy cheap jeans, support their governments exploting 3rd World countries resources for their own gratification... but oh no, rather than a dose of realism, just blame the men... duh ??

      December 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  10. Sam

    I recently came back from volunteering as a teacher at a charity in cambodia. Although my contribution was small, it still helped. I do feel like a lot of celebrities do this sort of thing to better themselves and try to make it look like they're saving the world, when really if that was their true intention they wouldn't need a camera crew to do so and they wouldn't be pointing fingers. However issues surrounding poverty such as human trafficking cannot be solved over night. There are a lot of people in this world doing their bit to help, including Westerners, although there could be more, they are still helping. Although this woman could do a lot more, she's still raising awareness; people who may not have a clue about the realities of third world countries might watch this and be driven to help. Arguing over a topic as heartbreaking as this one seems wrong, everyone has their own opinions of how they think such problems can be fixed. I don't feel like there is one right solution and there probably will never be. It's a waste of time arguing your points over a web page, channel your energy to something more positive towards helping these people if you feel compassionate enough about it. This isn't a dig at anyone it just doesn't feel right to see people arguing over this.

    December 17, 2013 at 5:20 am | Reply
    • Howard

      Thank you. You hit the nail on the head.

      December 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • Christopher Minko

      http://peoplethingsliterature.com/2014/02/17/krom-me-twice-a-conversation-with-christopher-minko-part-ii/

      February 18, 2014 at 12:27 am | Reply
  11. Tansha

    Mira has been campaigning for the anti-human trafficking for a long time now with UNODC. She didn't just go there to get publicity. It's easy to be cynical when you yourself aren't probably doing what she's doing.

    December 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Reply
  12. agadir excursions

    i will visit Cambodia on September 2014

    December 27, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  13. Naomi

    Wow the Phils and Johns on this website have a lot to say about this subject. All the talk abt being brutally honest and cutting thru the BS. I didn't make time to even read All your thoughts and answers to world problems cause I'm just wondering who you really are and how your negative opinion on others doing humanitarian efforts came to be interesting for people like you to knock down. Cause that's all I noticed to be straight up with y'all. I happen to appreciate people like Mira who actually care about other people enough to get out there and do something to sympathize with ones with no voice. And I'm wondering what you have done lately that made any sort of difference on a large or small scale on the subject your so apparently insightful, because caring about people doesn't sound like a high priority on your time management scale... A lot of opinions and answers. And so coming on here was for anyone to criticize got me wondering... What are you like so irritated about anyways.. are you like bothered clientele for these brothels...(rhetorical) what I had to read from you sounded just like a lot of words to state how smart and intellectual you are, so like what do you do to prevent human trafficking or raise awareness? I mean, what have you done lately for others, besides share your discouraging promotion of propaganda to dishearten people doing anything themselves for others selflessly?

    January 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Reply
    • Phillip

      Who I am and what I do is completely irrelevant in this situation. The topic is Mira Sorvino's photo-op in Cambodia.

      January 6, 2014 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • Miles

      Naomi, I would bet I have given more of my disposable income to some poor people in Cambodia who cannot afford a hospital bill. How much have you given directly to the people in real need. If we want to get personal, it is righeuos people like you who are bliinded by their own arrogance and self-righteousness. Most often found in the far right "christian" movements in the USA... It is poverty that is the root cause of human trafficing. A mother sells her daugher because of POVERTY. A young girl get conned into a fake "job" overseas beause there is no job in her own country... Is there something you cannot understand, or more like, not prepared to understand ...........

      January 6, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Reply
    • Christopher Minko

      http://peoplethingsliterature.com/2014/02/17/krom-me-twice-a-conversation-with-christopher-minko-part-ii/

      February 18, 2014 at 12:27 am | Reply
  14. Kristy

    Dear Mira,
    I'm currently watching "Every Day in Cambodia" and I cried so so much . I don't know how to express my feeling right now but Thank you, Don, and the organization so much for fighting for these unfortunate people. It makes me believe that POVERTY is a crime bc it brings out all kinds of ugly side in a person . It's very sad to see a mother use poverty as an excuse the sell her daughter.

    February 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply
    • Christopher Minko

      http://peoplethingsliterature.com/2014/02/17/krom-me-twice-a-conversation-with-christopher-minko-part-ii/

      February 18, 2014 at 12:28 am | Reply
  15. human

    تحذير قد تكون مراقب
    هل تستخدم امريكا و اسرائيل الانترنت بمواقعه ( يوتيوب, فيس بوك, تويتر,غرف الشات..) للتجسس!
    warning you may be watched
    do usa & israel use the internet ( youtube, facebook, twitter, chat rooms,ect...)to collect informations,,,,can we call that spying ?
    why they ask for ur name,age,gender,occupation,place of work,ur mobile number.............ect, can they use these informations in a way that may harm you?!!!!!!!!!!!?!?!?!?!??!!?

    February 14, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
  16. oakley prezzi

    Bruciare rabbia nel cielo azzurro sopra la. Fino Ho incontrato Zayed Khan che, in quel momento, stava girando per il Main Hoon Na. C'è di più a piacere all'interno,Oakley 2013, pure. Camicie da notte graziose appendere su una parete.). Una mossa prima che il nodo che ho fatto qualcosa che non ho mai fatto con nessuno prima che io la tirai fuori rotta.No, stavo egoisticamente concentrato sul mio piccolo rifugio pieno di sole .. Lei è la protagonista di The September Issue,Oakley Li

    February 25, 2014 at 2:50 am | Reply
  17. Samuel Ohemeng

    Thanks to CNN, you are doing a good job..... The good lord will judge us all.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:26 am | Reply

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