Monday, May 25, 2009

Four Girls Perish In Karaoke Bar Fire In NorthwestCambodia
Fire destroys building with girls trapped behind a chained door

Fire raged through a karaoke bar consuming the lives of four young women trapped inside. In this part of the world, karaoke bars are often fronts for brothels.

These four young women were prisoners behind a chained door preventing their escape or rescue. Now the charred ruins of this back alley nightclub starkly testify to the horror that took place there. Four lives were lost needlessly early Sunday morning, May 3, 2009.

Probably no western newspaper will pick up the story of the deaths of Hou Leak, 15; Srey Touch, 17; Srey Mao, 19; and Sambath. 22. Their passing is but a footnote to the endless parade of human suffering throughout the world. Things like this happen all the time.

We, however, shouldn’t let their story pass without further reflection. There’s the suggestion of something more sinister in this incident. 

It’s not the cause of the fire that’s suspect. According to police sources, faulty electrical wiring is to blame. Nobody is suggesting that foul play contributed to the cause of the fire. But something about this case is troublesome.

The door to the girls’ room was chained. That chained door is troublesome. Certainly, the chance of the girls’ survival would have been improved had the door not been chained. And no one disputes the fact that the door was chained. Even the newspaper reports that the families might seek compensation from the club owner for his carelessness after they finish burying the remains of their daughters.

Now the club owner might plea his case by saying that he was only doing his part in keeping the girls safe by chaining the door. He might argue that the chains kept intruders out. But the chains did more than keep intruders out. They kept the girls in, and that’s why these four young women perished.

Four girls are dead because they couldn’t escape. In effect, they were prisoners. And word on the street says that’s exactly what they were. There’s a persistent rumor going around that they were part of a sex trafficking ring working out of Phnom Penh. That’s why these girls were held behind a chained door. They couldn’t escape even if they wanted to.

This tragedy is difficult for us at Rapha House. What makes this tragedy difficult for us is that we have a safehouse within a couple miles from where these girls perished. Help was that close. We would have gladly taken them in. We would have cared for them. We would have given them an opportunity for a better life. We would have done everything within our power to help them. But we didn’t know about these four girls.

It’s horrifying to think what the last moments of life was like for these four girls. We don’t want to imagine something as awful as that. But had the night passed without incident, what would life had been like for these four girls if they were part of a sex trafficking ring?

All over the world, young girls are kept behind chained doors only to greet another day of bondage. Help us to reach more girls before its too late for them.

Rapha House, P.O. Box 1569, Joplin, MO 64802-1569  •