The fact that a growing number of middle-class Cambodians such as Sokny are seeking such procedures indicates that cosmetic surgery in the fast-developing country is shifting away from being an industry aimed at the cashed-up, glamorous and famous.
This increased demand has partly been fuelled by a flood of new and often unregulated clinics such as De Beaute that offer cheaper services to lure in a wider spectrum of the Cambodian population, according to Thida Khus, a prominent women’s rights campaigner and the executive director of Silaka, a local capacity-building NGO. She has a number of reservations regarding the safety of such clinics: “It is dangerous. There is no effective monitoring or restriction on the people training and operating in the business”.
“The problem is the state, who do not accept their responsibility to monitor this industry. Competition among [the clinics] themselves isn’t enough [to improve safety standards],” she added. “There have been many cases of people who wanted to get a nose adjustment but have had horrible complications because the procedure was badly performed with poor materials.”
Despite the dangerously under-qualified clinicians, doctors and quacks working in Cambodia, the country’s – and more broadly Southeast Asia’s – cosmetic medicine sector is thriving. A report released last November by research firm MarketsAndMarkets found that while North America is the world’s largest medical aesthetics market, the Asia-Pacific market is set to grow at the fastest rate from now until 2021. By that year, the global medical aesthetics market will be worth $13.29 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 10.8% from 2016-21, the report stated.
A separate report released by Grand View Research in June 2016 contended that by 2014, the Asia-Pacific region was already the biggest aesthetic medicine market in the world. Although South Korea, China and Japan are by far the largest contributors to the market size, Southeast Asian nations such as Cambodia have also anecdotally seen a growth in the industry.