The Grey Man organisation says it has rescued a 10-year-old girl and a 14-year-old girl being held in an illegal brothel.
The discovery prompted Cambodian police to arrest two men and it is hoped the intelligence gained will help bust a major international sex trading syndicate.
The Grey Man organisation is a Brisbane-based charity made up mainly of former SAS soldiers and policemen. Its volunteers are used to dangerous assignments, but their work tracking down South East Asian paedophile rings and freeing young girls can get equally hazardous.
For six months The Grey Man has been trying to establish a presence in Cambodia, a notorious haven for sex offenders.
The group’s president, a former SAS soldier who uses the pseudonym John Curtis, says one of his members stumbled on an illegal brothel while on a fact-finding mission in Cambodia.
“While he was there he’s decided to do a bit of snooping around himself, spoken to a taxi driver, and that led to him being offered these girls for sex.
“He involved IJM (International Justice Mission) and the Cambodian police and we rescued the two Vietnamese girls.”
The Grey Man is now helping to find a new home for the girls, who Mr Curtis says are in a terrible condition.
“What we find usually with rescued girls is that they have a lot of nutritional deficiencies for a start, because their diet is not very good, they’re not treated very well, they just barely scrape by because they’re not given much money or food.
“And over time of course they can develop sexually-transmitted diseases and they often end up in the end with AIDS and once they’re too sick to work they’ll usually be kicked out on the street and then they scrape by until they die.”
Mr Curtis is hopeful that the arrest of the sex traffickers will provide information that may crack the syndicate.
“We’re following up on a whole number of leads that came from the operation, and we’re trying to track down other people who were involved in the trafficking of the girls and I think we’ve got a good chance of going somewhere with that.
“We did a similar thing on the Thai-Laos border last year and we ended up wrecking a trafficking ring that was trafficking about 120 girls a year across the border from Laos.”
Mr Curtis says the volunteers’ work has led to some unpleasant confrontations.
“Yes, there are Australians, we’ve met up with a number of them who are doing this type of thing and have tried to get evidence on them, but they’re also Germans and Swiss and French and Americans and Canadians, it just goes on and on and on.
“They seem to be taking advantage of the lax laws and security or the lack of chance of being caught in South East Asia.”
UNICEF estimates that as many as 1.2 million children may be trafficked for sex each year.