Vice’s Brothel Raid

After Nick Kristof’s infamous ‘live tweet’ brothel raid and Mira Sorvino / CNN Freedom’s follow up, it appears now that Vice Magazine wants to get in on the dramatic action. Let’s take a look at how successful they are.

Live coverage of police activity is a staple in the USA. But filming brothel raids where there may be underage children?
It is often in direct violation of international and local law, if minors are depicted. And I am skeptical of the ‘staging’ of any raid done where a camera is present.

I have never quite gottenVice‘ magazine and its sprawling media brand. Primarily billed as an edgy entertainment magazine/site, its attempts to veer into ‘investigative journalism’ are a bit jarring.

In this new 12-13 minute segment, ‘founder’ Suroosh Alvi tries to cover a lot of ground but doesn’t mention the copious reporting from local news sources, nor further threads to follow.

Vice's Brothel Raid

The segment opens with Suroosh on a ‘hostess bar’ street, where he fails to differentiate between the international and local sex trade.

It then follows a raid by the Ministry of the Interior. “It’s a very heavy scene”….”This is as dark as it gets right here,” comments Suroosh.

The video then follows the choices offered to the arrested women, noting the rescue-to-garment work pipeline, and the prison-like nature of some retraining facilities. A woman who has returned to sex work is interviewed.
(Vice cites her community as near ‘abandoned’ railway tracks, which in reality is contended land, where most live under threat of eviction.)

But Suroosh never names the NGOs and training facilities, a common flaw that is seen across the board in nearly all ‘parachute’ reportage.

There is a brief soundbite with Dave Welsh of the Solidarity Center, which does good networking in a changing union environment. The camera moves quickly on.

We Must Fight

Narrator Suroosh then attends a wage protest outside a factory. Which is where the clip really loses its footing.
There is no mention of the fact that most rank and file union members are women, but that the leadership is dominated by men.

Suroosh then agitates for the workers to get his camera crew inside, shouting ‘Solidarity!’ to the crowd, so he can do interior factory shots – precious components for a video news story.

Vice Should We Help

The crowd ushers him inside, at great personal risk – the event had seen violence by hired thugs earlier in the day.
In a voice-over narration, it’s noted that the factory manufactures for H&M, Old Navy, Benetton and Russell Athletics – all of whom failed to provide replies for this story. Vice doesn’t mention any brands that it has corporate ties with, such as Nike.

An English-speaking staffer (of what sounds like ‘Barry’ factory) takes Suroosh aside and discusses the factory perspective with him, in an air-conditioned meeting room.

Suroosh is then sent back to the waiting crowd as an envoy with a message from management.

Vice Microphone

Led to a stage, with the rapt attention of protesters, Suroosh states: “It’s not appropriate for me to get involved in these contract negotiations.” So much for solidarity.
He then exploits his stage presence further by asking the assembled protesters what their current wage is.

Not True Vice

The assembled crowd shouts that it’s too low. Suroosh / Vice fails to mention Cambodia minimum wage laws, as well as salary in relation to overtime – key components of the overall wage issue.

He concludes that the factory is ‘far above average’ compared to others. Suroosh has obtained his key ‘inside the factory’ footage, so it’s time to move on. Pretty quick to forget the beatings that took place earlier in the day. If that’s Vice’s standard for ‘above average’, they are essentially accepting violence as a part of the garment manufacturing process.

The segment moves on, adding context about the protests from 2013 and earlier in 2014.

Sooresh: “It’s crazy when you can go to a big retailer in America and buy a hoodie for ten bucks.” Maybe you should take that up with your staff?

As he says this, he is inside an unnamed garment factory. Who gave him permission? And under what conditions? That he not disclose the name of what he labels a ‘sweatshop’?

The clip concludes by noting that many women enter the sex trade voluntarily.

It’s hard to sum up such a big topic in a short clip. It’s slickly produced and fast-moving, but omits numerous key facts, and doesn’t acknowledge the hard work of local Cambodian reporters who have helped to break this news internationally.

Vice is really at sea here. Is this segment an editorial or a straight news report? If they’re attempting ‘gonzo journalism‘ it’s a weak attempt. Their confused role is best exemplified by pretending to be a part of a labor protest, only to get precious visuals and comments for their clip, and then leaving the crowd without any resolution.

In a nutshell, that’s my opinion of ‘Vice’. Professing solidarity, pretending to be your friend, but exploiting the situation for their own benefit – then leaving.

Responsible parties:
Vice Credits All

For more ‘up to the minute’ details on garment industry doings in Cambodia, check OpenDevCam’s tracking of the garment industry in the press.

For critical analysis, these reports are a good start:
‘Tearing Apart At The Seams’

’10 Years Of Better Factories’:

‘Monitoring In The Dark: Improving Factory Working Conditions In Cambodia’

“Caught between the Tiger and the Crocodile”: Cambodian Sex Workers’ Experiences of Structural and Physical Violence

For a list of actual unions and labor organizations, a current list is here.

Workers Information Centre: /
Solidarity Center:
‘Clean Clothes Campaign’:

2 Responses to “Vice’s Brothel Raid”

  1. Jinja says:

    Postscript: Chheang Sopheng is (billed as local ‘fixer’)

  2. Jinja says:

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