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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Invisible Chains: Sex Slaves

Aired March 23, 2007 - 23:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Roberts in Washington. "Invisible Chains: Sex Slaves" begins in a moment.
But first, a quick look at the headlines. Major developments tonight involving the death of Pat Tillman.

According to the "Associated Press," a Pentagon investigation says that nine officers, including four generals, should be held accountable for missteps following Tillman's death.

The NFL star turned Army Ranger died nearly three years ago in Afghanistan, a result of friendly fire. Initially, the Pentagon said he was killed by the enemy.

New questions about the U.S. attorney general's role in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. A document released tonight indicates that Alberto Gonzales attended a meeting last year where plans for carrying out the firings were discussed.

But Justice Department officials say participants at the meeting do not remember if he signed off on the final hit list.

Just 10 days ago, Gonzales told reporters that he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed, but was not himself involved.

In Washington, the House today narrowly passed a war spending bill that orders President Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq by September of 2008. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says lawmakers were fulfilling a mandate from the American people. President Bush calls the vote, quote, "political theater," and promises to veto the measure if it ever reaches his desk, which it likely won't.

And Britain is strongly protesting the seizure today of 15 royal marines and sailors. They were on a mission in a disputed corner of the Persian Gulf when vessels from Iran's revolutionary guard corps surrounded them.

And those are the headlines. Our special hour, "Invisible Chains: Sex Slaves," begins right now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. This is a special edition of 360, from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. "Invisible Chains: Sex Slaves," talking about slavery. If you think it no longer exists, you are wrong. It is one of the world's ugliest truths. Right now, tonight, the United Nations estimates there are more than a million children and teenagers forced to work as sex slaves. It's happening here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia, as we'll show you in a moment.

But we begin, as shocking as it might sound, in the United States. In the world of prostitution, young American girls and boys exploited every day. In fact, the FBI has flagged 14 U.S. cities where children are most at risk. One of them is Atlanta. And that's where we send CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Atlanta, sex sells, in the sex shops, strip clubs, and on the street.

But, beneath it all, there is an underground world of child prostitution, a multibillion-dollar business worldwide -- sex slaves, girls as young as 9, paraded on the streets for money, sold from pimp to pimp, locked inside seedy motel rooms to do the unthinkable.

(on camera): How bad is it for them?


KAYE: Don't hold back.


Some of the girls have reported that they have had to sleep with 40 or more men through the course of a night. We call them Johns, but they're really rapists.

KAYE (voice-over): Atlanta is ground zero for child prostitution. Nobody knows how many underage girls are on the streets, but child advocates say, it probably runs into hundreds, in both poor and wealthy parts of the city.

Raids like this one have only made a small dent in this thriving industry. Pimps are taken to jail. Girls are freed, but quickly replaced.

The Fulton County DA's office told us, quote, "From a law enforcement perspective, we need to be much more organized, and we need many more resources to adequately combat the plague of child prostitution."

(on camera): Why the interest in such young girls? Experts say the Johns like them because they think they're cleaner than girls who have been on the street for a while. The pimps apparently prefer them because they can control them. They're impressionable and easily manipulated.

(voice-over): Shantique Wallace was just 12 when she walked the streets of Atlanta. Her pimp, known on the street as "Batman," was willing to take as little as 10 bucks from anyone who wanted to have sex with her. Batman made Shantique have sex with another pimp.

(on camera): Take me back to that night when he forced you to have sex with him.

SHANTIQUE WALLACE, FORMER SEX SLAVE VICTIM: And they told me, if you don't sleep with him, you're going to die.

KAYE: Did you truly believe your life was on the line?

WALLACE: Yes. Up to this day, I still do. I still do.

KAYE (voice-over): Shantique says she was held prisoner, kept tied, spread-eagle, to bedposts for two weeks in the house her pimp shared with his family. She says, sometimes, he forgot to feed her. All he wanted was to sell her.

WALLACE: People would come in while I was tied down, look at me, leave out.

KAYE: Turns out, Shantique was being held just two miles away from home. Her aunt eventually found her.

Other girls remain enslaved on the street for years. The pimps themselves are often drug dealers looking to make an extra buck.

BAKER: Some are drug dealers, and some are in the business of sex, because you can only sell a dime bag one time. But you can sell a 10-year-old girl over and over again.

KAYE: They use people they call scouts to lure young girls in. And they know which girls will bite. Pimps canvass bus stops for runaways, the most vulnerable.

The problem of child exploitation is so enormous here, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin released this public service announcement targeting Johns.


SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, MAYOR OF ATLANTA: Dear John, you have been abusing our kids, prostituting them, and throwing them onto the street.


KAYE: In Georgia, pimping minors only became a felony in 2001. It was a misdemeanor before then. But convictions still don't come easy.

Shantique testified against both her pimps. One cut a deal and walked free. The big fish, "Batman," real name Andrew Moore, got 40 years.

Seven years after her ordeal, Shantique is a freshman in college. She struggles with dating, but her grades are good. In her free time, she counsels young girls, hoping to teach them, in life, they have a choice, and child prostitution isn't one of them.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: It's hard to believe.

If you're wondering how this could possibly be happening in the United States in 2007, well, so were we.

Rachel Lloyd knows how hard, though, it is to break the invisible chains of slavery. She was a prostitute for two years and was almost murdered by her pimp.

Today, she runs a group that helps victims of sexual exploitation. I spoke to her recently.


COOPER: So, it's not surprising to you to see a 13-year-old girl out on the streets of New York or another city in the United States?

RACHEL LLOYD, GIRLS EDUCATIONAL AND MENTORING SERVICES: No. I mean, sadly, it's not. It should be, but it's -- but it's not.

I mean, each year, we serve about 200 girls, ages 12 to 21. Again, even our older girls, who are considered by most people as adult prostitutes, are -- are girls who were trafficked into the industry as teenagers.

COOPER: And you have found that these girls are actually moved around from city to city?


There's a -- you know, various pipelines throughout the U.S., East Coast, West Coast, across the states, where pimps traffic girls back and forth, depending on the weather, depending on sports conventions, entertainment events, when they know there are going to be a lot of men there to buy children.

COOPER: So, if -- if the Super Bowl is in town or something...

LLOYD: Exactly.

COOPER: ... they will actually move girls to be there for...


COOPER: ... the demand?

LLOYD: Exactly.

COOPER: How is it that these girls -- I mean, how does a 13- year-old get involved in this in the first place? LLOYD: Seventy to 80 percent of sexually exploited youth were sexually abused as children, and often are just very vulnerable to the lure of sexual predators, of pimps.

And, at 13 years old, I mean, for -- you know, I think, sometimes, we think it's so hard to understand. But, for people who can remember what -- remember what it was like to be 13 and be in love, and, you know, especially if he was an older man. That's very exciting as a 13-year-old girl. He takes you out to dinner. He gets your nails done. He gets you -- gets you a pair of sneakers. He takes you on a road trip.

It's not until the violence starts, the abuse starts, you start being sold, that you understand that you are ultimately his slave.

COOPER: And -- and how -- I mean, you work with these girls on the streets of New York. How tough does it get for them? What is life like for them?

LLOYD: I mean, it is really hard out here for a 13-year-old girl who is being sold night after night after night. The girls have experienced multiple kidnappings, both by other pimps and by the Johns.

And, I agree, we need to think of another word than that, because a -- a 13-year-old doesn't have a John. He's a sexual predator. He is a child molester.

COOPER: A lot of people watching this would say, well, look, someone walking the streets is -- is choosing to do it. They are not a -- they are not a slave.

LLOYD: Yes. And, I mean, and we -- we have that discussion -- debate, rather, oftentimes with law enforcement, with judges, with prosecutors, who see these girls as criminals, who believe that they should be locked up, they should be arrested. And they frequently are arrested.

In New York state, kids under the age of 17 can't legally consent to sex, and yet somehow, if money is exchanged, they're the person who's going to jail. And, obviously, we don't see the adult men going to jail. And this is what we really need to look at. This is adult men who buy and sell children.

COOPER: What should people who are watching this now who want to help, what can they do? What -- what can anyone do?

LLOYD: I mean, I -- I think, one, we need to change the conversation in this country about this issue, right? We need to start with the language that we use, and the fact that we...

COOPER: They're not Johns. They're -- they're sexual predators.

LLOYD: They're not child prostitutes, or teen prostitutes, or bad girls, or hookers. They are sexually exploited children and youth. We need to look at them as victims. We need to treat them the same way that we look at children from India or Pakistan or the Philippines or the Ukraine.

I mean, we can be very sympathetic when it comes to trafficking victims from other places. And, yet, when it comes to U.S. youth, who may be poor, who may be youth of color, who may not be youth who fit in a very neat little victim box, we say, well, no, they're bad kids. They must like having sex. They like being out there. They could leave any time they choose.

And that's just not the reality of what we're talking about. So, we need to change our perceptions. We need to stop glorifying pimp culture. These are men who are incredibly brutal and violent, and dispose of girls like -- like they're trash.

So, I -- I think that's one of the first things. I think people can reach out and find out, you know, where in their neighborhoods they can volunteer. And people can get involved in this issue. And I think, as -- if we can make a collective decision as a society to stand against this -- we have -- we have done it with domestic violence.

We changed the language around it. We haven't ended domestic violence, but we've changed the societal perception of what that is. And we have provided services for victims.

I believe that we can do this with sexual exploitation and trafficking. But we really have to make a commitment to do it.

COOPER: Rachel, thanks.


COOPER: Well, as you can see, Rachel Lloyd is on a mission.

Just ahead, another woman's mission to save young girls from the hell that she endured.

Plus, children bought and sold right here in Cambodia. We'll take you inside these brothels with "New York Times" Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist Nicholas Kristof.


COOPER (voice-over): Children robbed of their futures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... need to see how difficult it is, how many girls there are who get no education and just can't stand up to these brothels, to the traffickers, to the mama sans (ph). They get sold to a brothel and then they don't dare fight back, they don't dare run away. They don't know what to do.

COOPER: They get sold and they just can't fight back. Girls as young as 5 turned into sex slaves. Many dead before they're 30.

You're watching a special edition of 360.


COOPER: The U.S. government started ranking countries six years ago on their efforts to stop human trafficking and slavery.

This country, Cambodia, has long had one of the worst reputations for sexual slavery. Recently it has begun to make efforts to try to crack down, but the problem, it is still immense.

"New York Times" Columnist Nicholas Kristof has written extensively about the victims. We're talking about young girls primarily, some incredibly young as 5 years old.

He recently returned to Cambodia to track down one girl in particular. Here's her story.


COOPER (voice-over): Though he's been visiting Cambodia to witness and to write about sex slavery there over the past 10 years, each new visit seems even more disturbing for "New York Times" Columnist Nicholas Kristof.

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: I'm in a room of a large brothel and guesthouse. It's said to be, you know, one of the wildest ones with the youngest girls and where virgins are sold and this kind of thing. And the reason it can get away with all that is the owner is the head of the criminal division of the local police.

COOPER: Kristof was so affected by his visit here three years ago that he paid $350 to buy two teenage prostitutes so he could set them free.

For this woman, Stre-Mam (ph), he paid $203. That meant she'd be free from a life of $3 a session sex.

Kristof found Stre-Mam (ph) was kidnapped for prostitution when she was just 14. She met a woman at a bus station who talked with her, kidnapped her and then sold her virginity to a Cambodian brothel.

In December Kristof went back to check on her.

KRISTOF: We're about to go look up Stre-Mam (ph), who's a young woman we met here four years ago now. And at that time we bought her freedom from the brothel, took her to her hometown.

COOPER: Prostitution is illegal in Cambodia, but it operates in the open here.

KRISTOF: We stopped in a little town of Sisifund (ph) and walked down their red light district, getting mauled by some of the young women there who are very aggressive. The other red light districts have been clamped down on a little bit; not Sisifund (ph).

What's your name? COOPER: Sex here can cost $1 to $25. But young girls, some only 12 or 10 or even younger, are highly prized for their virginity.

Incredible as it seems, Kristof found that some men with AIDS actually believe sex with a virgin can cure them. Some will pay $500 to $800 to have sex with them, sometimes taking them for a week.

So brothels will pay traffickers several hundred dollars for a virgin. The money is so good and some families so poor that they'll sell their own daughters.

KRISTOF: Running back to the brothel from what...

COOPER: Kristof doesn't know how much her kidnapper got for Stre-Mam (ph). He just wants to see how she's doing since he freed her.

KRISTOF: I'm really looking forward to seeing her, but I'm always afraid I'm going to come back sometime, and she's going to have just vanished with AIDS or something.

COOPER: Brothels are concentrated in Cambodia's big cities, but on the way to finding Stre-Mam (ph), Kristof stopped at a remote village, where he met another teenage girl who had been hunted down for her young body.

KRISTOF: Today we drove out southeast from Batabong to find a trafficking victim we had heard about. We drove about an hour, a little more than that, along a little river. And there squashed between a rice paddy and the river was a little tiny village, and there a young woman came to us by boat to meet us there. Her name was Kahan (ph).

COOPER: Kahan (ph) says a woman she thought was her friend gave her ice cream, but it was laced with drugs to incapacitate her so she could be kidnapped and sold. Police found her first and she was saved, but Kahan (ph) was left partially paralyzed by the drugs in the ice cream.

KRISTOF: The drugs had had a lasting effect on her, and so she was left mute for months and months. Even now more than a year later she's only beginning to get her speech back, and the family has been largely bankrupted by trying to treat that disorder.

COOPER: Kristof continued his journey through Cambodia and eventually found Stre-Mam (ph).

KRISTOF: How are you?

COOPER: He found her not at home, but right back where he'd rescued her. Stre-Mam (ph) had become addicted to methamphetamine in the brothel and gave up her freedom because she couldn't live without the drug. It's common here, Kristof found, brothels giving drugs to girls to keep them enslaved.

KRISTOF: Oh, you look good, though. COOPER: Stre-Mam (ph) said she was embarrassed that Kristof found her back here and insisted she had given up prostitution. But, of course, Kristof finds that's a lie. In the middle of their reunion, a regular customer arrives and she has to leave to take care of business.

KRISTOF: Boy, it just, you know, you travel to these little villages and you just see how difficult it is, how many girls there are who get no education and just can't stand up to the brothels, to the traffickers, to the mama sans (ph). They get sold to a brothel and then they just don't dare fight back. They don't dare run away. They don't know what to do.

And they've been taught, you know, to accept their lot in life, and so they do. And that is going to take a long time to change, I'm afraid.


COOPER: Stre-Mam (ph) is just one face, one story. There are more than a million children around the world facing what she does every day.

And sadly, the odds of breaking the cycle of sexual slavery are slim at best.

I talked to Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist Nicholas Kristof about that.


COOPER: So what happens now to Stre-Mam (ph)?

KRISTOF: I'm afraid she's going to end up remaining in the brothel and will probably end up dying there of AIDS.

She keeps talking -- every time I visited her she talks about how she's going to leave, how she's going to go back to her family, but she knows that it's an illusion. She's addicted to meth. A lot of the brothels give the girls meth precisely to create an addiction.

COOPER: One of the lines that you wrote which so struck me in one of your articles was that the difference between 19th century slavery and 21st century slavery is that slaves today die...

KRISTOF: They're all dead of AIDS by the time they're in their 20s. And otherwise, in terms of being physically locked up and being completely at the mercy of a slave owner, to the point that this -- these slave owners, these brothel owners, can and do so much, kill the girls. You know, in that respect, it's very much the same.

COOPER: It's got to be sad for you to see this girl, Stre-Mam (ph), there because you know, I mean, you bought her her freedom.

KRISTOF: And it -- I can't -- you know, when I went back to her village with her and we met her parents, it was really just so happy. Her parents had thought she was dead, and there she was. And it was just so exciting to think she was going to start over. She was so happy. And, you know, then after a few days she ran back to the brothel.

COOPER: A few days, that's all it was?

KRISTOF: It was a few days. It was really when that meth addiction became just too strong, just overwhelmed her. And then two times after that she tried to leave, and she just couldn't.

COOPER: There's also this bond between her and the brothel owner or the mama san (ph) who runs the brothel, I guess, not the owner necessarily.

KRISTOF: It is, actually, the owner in that case, and that brothel owner is, I find, just one of the most fascinating people there. I've spent hours and hours in that brothel, and she has a real bond with Stre-Mam (ph) and at times she really helps her and helps other girls.

On the other hand on my last visit it turned out that there was one recent girl who had been to the brothel, and the brothel owner locked up this girl, sold her virginity, beat her when she resisted. And you know, she rips off, she cheats all these girls. They're ATMs for the brothel.

COOPER: What's so mind boggling about this, too, is that you can't necessarily go to the authorities. I mean, I guess on some level you can, but in the case of one of these brothels, though, there's the police officer who's running it.

KRISTOF: Exactly. In fact, the -- on this visit, I stayed at a brothel/guesthouse in Poipet, and it had underage girls, manifestly underage girls. And it was rumored to have, you know, young virgins locked up inside the brothel. And the reason it could get away with that was precisely because it was owned by the head of the criminal division of the local police.

COOPER: So is anyone serious about cracking down on it inside Cambodia?

KRISTOF: There have been some efforts to crack down, really because of U.S. diplomatic pressure, and the U.S. has been pretty good about adding to that pressure. So the upshot is that if you don't pay bribes to the police, and if you don't have connections and if you have underage girls, then you are indeed at risk of being cracked down on.

But if you are the police yourselves, for example, you can get away with literally murder.

COOPER: And you've seen some change in the many years that you've been going to Cambodia and reporting on this story? I mean, you've seen...

KRISTOF: Yes. COOPER: Does it get harder to find younger girls?

KRISTOF: When I first went to Cambodia, there were virgins, you know, 11-year-old virgins being openly sold in storefronts. And that is no longer the case now. Today, you have somewhat older girls. They are, you know, more likely to be 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds and up. They're more likely to be allowed to use condoms, so they're somewhat less likely to die of AIDS quite so soon.

But, so there have been, you know, some improvements at the margins. But ultimately, the story is still one of a modern form of slavery.

COOPER: I remember in Thailand hearing that there was a tradition for Thai businessmen who go to a town, that you sort of feel like you haven't visited the town until you have sex with a girl from that -- from that location.

KRISTOF: Yes. And one of the traditions which makes it hardest to stop is this notion that if somebody has AIDS and if they sleep with a virgin girl, then they are going to cure themselves of AIDS. And so it creates this market for young virgin girls who then are exposed to AIDS, end up dying of it themselves.

COOPER: So what can be done? I mean, is there -- is there a solution?

KRISTOF: Yes, there is. And it's pretty clear that just -- that rehabilitating the girls after they've been sold to the brothels is really hard. And that prevention is -- is where you have to devote the resources.

COOPER: So international pressure is key?

KRISTOF: International pressure really makes a difference. And the State Department has been applying more pressure and that has been reasonably effective in some countries. But we have to do a lot more of that. And we have to make the issue higher on the agenda.

COOPER: What is it like being there? I mean, what is it like being in these brothels and seeing this? I mean, you keep going back to it. You've seen it over the years.

KRISTOF: One of the things that I think surprises Americans when you go there is that, in a way, they almost seem kind of family-style operations. You have the brothel owner who is typically a woman, and her kids are often running around. And the girls are sort of playing with the kids and, you know, and everybody is dressed nicely and speaking politely.

But then when a girl tries to run away, then she is brought back and she's beaten up. And at times she is physically locked up in a room or chained to a bed.

COOPER: And within Cambodia, is it -- is it just sort of accepted? KRISTOF: It's largely accepted. And that is a big part of the problem, and the same is true of India, which is again just a horrendous problem.

And one of the things that I think we can do in the U.S. is to help Cambodian leaders and Indian leaders and those in other countries, Malaysia, which has a huge problem and make them begin to think about it, put it on their agenda.

COOPER: Do you get a good response? I mean do people care -- I always found people care once they know about a situation?

KRISTOF: Yes, I don't think that a lot of people care about, you know, up to 10 million children being locked up in brothels around the world. But they can really care about Stre-Mam (ph) or about...

COOPER: Because 10 million is just too big a figure. It doesn't mean anything.

KRISTOF: It's a number. It's not -- it's not somebody you can empathize with. But when you describe a real individual, that people can imagine as their daughter or their sister, then they do begin to care.

COOPER: Nick Kristof, thanks.

KRISTOF: Hey, my pleasure.


COOPER: You can read Nick Kristof's column in "The New York Times" on Sundays, as well as on Tuesdays. And all of his video from his trip to Cambodia is available on "The New York Times" web site, that's

Just ahead in this hour, saving Cambodian girls. Others rescued her. Now she is doing the same. One woman's mission to free child sex slaves. Next, on "Invisible Chains: Sex, Slaves."


SOMALY MAM, FORMER PROSTITUTE: Poor women, they have been raped. They have been, you know by 10, eight men, 20, 25, they have been gang raped. They hit them. They receive a lot of violence. That's why I am here.



COOPER: Right now, tonight, more than a million people, many of them children across the globe, are forced to work as sex slaves. They are literally sold into prostitution sometimes by their own families. Here in Cambodia it happens all the time. Many of the victims die young of aids, but remarkably thousands have managed to escape these invisible chains because of one woman's effort. Here is CNN's Dan Rivers.


DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Phnom Penh, brothels are everywhere. The UN says 55,000 prostitutes work here, a third of them are underage girls. Some are barely even old enough for school.

Many bars put on chorus lines of underage girls for sale. They might seem cheerful but this is a violent, dangerous netherworld where rape, beatings and even murder are common.

Carr (ph) knows the dangers too well. She has just arrived at a woman's refuge after an awful night on the streets.

She tells me that last night a client paid her $10 for sex but then five other men arrived and brutally gang raped her. The last man was drunk and smashed her in the eye.

Her arms are marked from where she has repeatedly cut them. Self-mutilation carried out when she was addicted to methamphetamine, a habit she kicked after an agonizing battle.

The refuge also has a clinic where Carr gets treatment for her eye, but that's the least of her problems. She told us almost as an afterthought that she also is HIV positive.

The clinic and the refuge are run by Mam Somaly, herself a former prostitute.

SOMALY MAM, FORMER PROSTITUTE: Poor women, they have been raped by 10, eight men, 20, 25, they have been gang raped. They hit them. They receive a lot of violence. That's why I am here.

RIVERS: But Somaly has turned her life around, taking her campaign to end this modern day slavery as far as she can despite almost no help from the Cambodian government.

And it's not just adults that benefit. She's rescued a total of 55 children from brothels in Cambodia, bringing them to this refuge, most aren't even teenagers yet. Taking them off the streets and offering them a new home in the countryside where they get a chance to learn new skills and find a new life.

MAM: A lot of them, when they arrive first, they are like, have psychological problems. Very big problems. And they never had love by the people, by the parents, even by the parents.

RIVERS (on camera): Every single child you see here was rescued from a brothel. What's horrifying is that many of these children were sold into the sex trade by their own parents for as little as 10 U.S. dollars and some of them were only five years old.

(voice-over): Like Srey (ph) rescued from the brothel at the age most children haven't even begun school and like so many other children here Srey is HIV positive. These children may be free but they've lost any chance of living a normal, healthy life. Dan Rivers, CNN, Kampong Cham, Cambodia.


COOPER: One woman's mission in Cambodia where demand for child sex slaves is enormous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A haven for pedophiles everywhere. Cambodia is like, hey, guys, do you want to go out and get a shag? It was completely unremarkable, part of the day-to-day existence.


COOPER: Westerners who found the perfect place for their crime, plenty of victims and little risk of getting caught next.

Next on this special edition of 360, "Invisible Chains, Sex Slaves."


COOPER: Welcome back. We're coming to you from Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Before the break, we showed you one woman's efforts to free child sex slaves here in Cambodia. Sadly her mission will not end anytime soon because the demand for child sex slaves is thriving. For pedophiles Cambodia is a virtual paradise. The supply is abundant and punishment rare. Once again, CNN's Dan Rivers.


RIVERS (voice-over): The nearly 900-year-old ruin of Angkor Wat, tranquil, mysterious and stunningly beautiful.

But here amid the serene heritage of the Khmer civilization is a dark undercurrent of sex and pedophilia. As I quickly discovered westerners are besieged by children selling trinkets. It's made this place attractive to men who want to buy more than just a souvenir.

Child charities say Cambodia is a haven for pedophiles World Vision says more than 15 percent of boys it surveyed said they were sexually abused before the age of nine.

But critics of the country's government say a lax legal system and endemic corruption mean many offenders aren't punished. Graham Cleghorn didn't escape, though. In a trial that captivated the nation, he was convicted in 2004 of raping five teenagers while living in Siemri (ph).

GRAHAM CLEGHORN, CONVICTED RAPIST: Those doors up there, those witnesses of mine were told if they didn't say that I molested them, they would never see their parents again.

RIVERS: Cleghorn recruited girls as maids. The New Zealand ex- pat denies any wrongdoing claiming his victims were pressured into testifying against him. Amit Gilboa lived in Cambodia and wrote a book about sex-obsessed expatriates, sex-pats, he met.

AMIT GILBOA, AUTHOR: Cambodia was like, hey, guys, do you want to go out and get a shag? It was completely unremarkable. It was part of day-to-day existence. There was no hiding. There was no coyness. It was like, do you want to go to lunch or do you want to go to the brothel?

RIVERS: The red light districts of Sienrik (ph) cater to both western and Cambodian men. It's aggressively patrolled by pimps who try to keep our cameras out.

They're prepared to use violence just to protect their meager income for as little as $2 a customer. Sex offenders like Cleghorn often buy houses and stay in Cambodia for years. His place is now looked after by this man who says he is Cleghorn's brother-in-law.

Hew Sna (ph) says many girls stayed with Cleghorn and the youngest were only 12 or 13 years old. Inside he shows me Cleghorn's bedroom where the girls say they were abused and a photo of Cleghorn's wife Der (ph). Many sexpats marry to help them buy property and give them a veneer of respectability.

Sna says Der usually slipped in a different bedroom.

Cleghorn was caught but is appealing his 20-year prison sentence. Officials fear there are many more like him roaming Cambodia as part of a sexpat culture that has no taboos but plenty of victims.


COOPER: Many of the victims here have been trafficked across borders, taken from their homes and sold as sex slaves. Just ahead the sordid business of trading in human lives.

Plus, young victims of war.

(voice-over): Kidnapped by a ruthless army, gang raped, and tortured.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I try to forget what happened to me, what those animals turned me into, but I can't.


COOPER: Just one of thousands of children turned into sex slaves and killing machines. Africa's shame next on this special edition of 360.


COOPER: As we've been showing you in this hour, in reports from Atlanta as well as here in Cambodia, a child's future can be stolen, literally in an instant in the miserable world of sex slavery. And the shameful truth is it happens every day. It's happening here right now all around us. Southeast Asia is ground zero in this epidemic.

We don't take sides here on 360 but there are no moral grays here. Lisa Rende Taylor is technical adviser to the UN Interagency Project for Human Trafficking. I spoke to her recently about what she's seen with her own eyes and it's not just sex trafficking, it's young people, women, children, trafficked in many different forms of slavery.


COOPER: So when you talk about trafficking, when you talk about slavery, what do you see? What kind of forms of slavery still exist?

LISA RENDE TAYLOR, HUMAN TRAFFICKING EXPERT: There are all kinds of forms, I think, in the region you see people who cannot -- they have no control, freedom of movement. They are in debt bondage situations, they are in highly abusive situations. You can find them sometimes in brothels. You can find this sometimes in factories.

COOPER: In the case of brothels, you see family members selling other family members?

TAYLOR: I think that maybe is the stereotype and sometimes I think that's the case if you have families that are in very desperate situations. I have interviewed parents who said, well, one daughter wanted to go off, and we thought that was OK and we got a little bit of an advance. Do you call that selling?

Then you have a lot of people who work in these situations as well. They said, well, I thought that I would give it a shot in an urban area. And it was the only work I could get and I want to get out of here and it's pretty terrible.

So are the parents complicit or not, if they send money home to support their family. Are their parents complicit or not? It really is kind of difficult.

COOPER: And then the other kinds of slavery that exists that you're talking about factory work, indentured servitude, basically, these are people moving across borders or moving from one village to another. And what, they find themselves in a situation they can't get out of?

TAYLOR: It's Asia. Look at the region. There's a real disparity in income and livelihoods and opportunities. If you have people who have a little bit desperate circumstances or if you have people who have a bit of an education and they want a more exciting life than an urban area. There will always be a supply of people to work in these situations and there will always people who run these factories or establishments who can make a lot of money, profiting off of slave labor and they do.

COOPER: It's important for you to make the point that this is a crime. Do some people not see it as a crime?

TAYLOR: Well, I think it's a situation where bad things happen to people who need to be protected and who need to receive support services and so on and so forth. It's something that happens often in poorer countries. So I think that the people who are responsible often see international development kind of response, where they feel like perhaps some poverty alleviation or micro credit programs or putting people in shelters, maybe this will alleviate the situation.

But I think that what most of us agree is that perhaps this is not going to solve the problem in itself. It's not just poor people in Asia who are being exploited. That is not what is causing exploitation. It's exploiters who are causing the exploitation and oftentimes it's not necessarily -- you can't just generalize and say oh, it's poor, rural people.

COOPER: So it's not necessarily just a social condition, it's a crime and a crime that needs to be punished.

TAYLOR: It's a crime that needs to be understood as well. Certain people are vulnerable to it. But it's not always the most ignorant, the least educated, the poorest. Oftentimes in Southeast Asia if you go into a village and I've done this, if you go into a village and interview a whole series of people to see who are the ones who are migrating, who are the ones in these situations, it's actually the ones who are the most educated because they feel like I want to get out of here. I think I have a chance at a better life. I have a little bit of capital. I'm not the poorest. I'm going to go to Bangkok and see what I can do with myself and see what I can do for my family.

These are the people who are the most vulnerable. Do most of our development programs develop these people? Not always and this is the problem.


COOPER: There are so many vulnerable children who are turned into sex slaves and worse. Just ahead, enslaved child soldiers who suffered trauma so severe it is almost incomprehensible.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Sometimes when I'm sleeping I dream that I'm being raped and strangled. And I wake up screaming and gasping for air.


COOPER: Welcome back. This is a special edition of 360. "Invisible Chains, Sex Slaves."

Our next stop is Uganda in Africa. It is one of the most dangerous places right now to be a child. Thousands of boys and girls there have ended up as sex slaves as well as child soldiers.

It's a hell that is almost impossible to comprehend and it is even harder to recover from. Here is CNN's Jeff Koinange.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Take a good like at these young men and women. Only a few months before we met them, these teenagers had all been slaves kidnapped in their villages in northern Uganda by a rebel army that calls itself the Lord's Resistance Army or LRA.

Its specialty is enslavement, forcing victims to become child soldiers and sex slaves. The LRA is led by this man, Joseph Kony, who claims to base his principles on the Ten Commandments.

Kony's M.O. is to invade villages and kidnap children, brainwashing them and turning them into merciless killers.

He struck so much fear across northern Uganda parents now insist on sending their children away each evening from their villages to the safety of the bigger cities.

And around here they are simply known as night commuters.

But after more than 20 years in hiding, Kony recently emerged saying he's tired of running. The Ugandan government calls the LRA terrorists. They call Kony a murderer and a mad man. The International Criminal Court calls Kony a war criminal and it wants him to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

But Kony wants full immunity in exchange for a promise to end his decades long fight against the Ugandan government.

Many of these teens do not want to see him pardoned after what they've been forced to see and do. Forced to murder, maim, and torture their enemies as well as suspected traitors among them.

They all bear the physical and deep mental scars of war. And as horrible as this may sound, those who escaped Kony and made it here, to a rehabilitation center run by the U.S. nongovernmental organization, World Vision, they are the lucky ones.

Among them, 19-year-old Alice Abalo and her four-year-old daughter Nancy, a product much mass rape by Kony and his men. Alice admits she killed for the LRA and that she was a sex slave, her body of constant reminder of her traumatic past. Two bullet wounds in her leg, shrapnel scars in her chest.

But what Alice saw and did as a child soldier are seared in her mind.

ALICE ABALO, FORMER SEX SLAVE (through translator): One day the group we were in had just killed about six people and proceeded to decapitate them. Then I was asked to light a wood fire using the victims' heads as support, the same way one would use three stones. I still have nightmares of their burning hair and brains oozing out of the burning heads. I've never been so scared in my life. KOINANGE: And yet her life grew only worse. For eight years Alice and other girls were literally passed from one rebel to another much the same way one would pass down an old pair of shoes.

ABALO: I try to forget what happened to me with those animals turned me into, but I can't. Sometimes when I'm sleeping I dream that I'm being raped and strangled and I wake up screaming and gasping for air.

KOINANGE: Florence Lakor's daughter was abducted by the LRA when she was eight years old. She had almost given up until she escaped and now at 17 she showed up at this rehabilitation center. Florence now counsels former sex slaves and child soldiers like Alice Abolo but admits it's difficult especially after hearing their shocking stories.

FLORENCE LAKOR, WORLD VISION, UGANDA: Their stories are really horrible. We have cases of children who were ordered to cook a human being. Said you cut the body into pieces and cook it up. Then they mobilize the village to come and eat the cooked body.

KOINANGE: Alice's rehabilitation into a life that's as close normal as possible will most likely take months perhaps years, but she is taking the first steps determined to, in her words, become a human being again.

ABALO: I just want to get my life back. That's all I'm asking.

KOINANGE: But years of enslavement have all but reduced Alice to a shy, reclusive and very scared individual. And even the best therapy in the world will be hard pressed to put this former sex slave life back together again.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Gulu (ph) in northern Uganda.


COOPER: A remarkable story in Uganda. The invisible sex chains of slavery are vast. We're talking about a global problem. It is not just Uganda, it is not just here in Cambodia. But there are people, good people working around the world to try to break those invisible chains. Here is how you can help.

Go to our blog, for a list of organizations that are trying to help solve this problem. Maybe there's something you can do.

Thanks very much for watching this special. I'm Anderson Cooper in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.