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The girls are getting younger all the time, a trend fuelled by the demand for virgins.

"The foreigners like their girls very young, very small," said a tour guide, Om Cham Roeun.

Then there's the truly hellish side-effect of global tourism I witnessed in Svay Pak. It's a scruffy shanty town just off the highway north of Phnom Penh in Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in South-East Asia.

Around Svay Pak's dirt streets and alleyways, in wooden shacks, families with up to 10 children struggle to survive on 2,000 riels (35p) a day.

There is no political will to crack down on child prostitution; in fact, Mr Legros claims one cabinet minister is involved in the trade. Ms Mc Menamin says Cambodia's sex tourists are seasoned travellers looking for new frontiers.

Tourists are occasionally arrested; a 69-year-old Staffordshire man, Derek Baston, was picked up with a girl aged 12 last July. But according to Afesip, a French charity that rescues child prostitutes, most foreigners buy their way out of trouble.

In a heartbreaking gesture, one of the girls climbed on to a stool beside me - presumably to increase her chances by making herself look taller. But I shall never forget the little "10-year-old", and the thought of the grotesque things someone had trained her to do in that sweaty cubicle.

Whether or not 10 was her real age, she didn't even come up to my waist. Sex tourism, the dark underbelly of the tourist trade, is rapidly becoming a global issue.

Oral sex costs (£3.20); 0 buys a six-year-old for a week.

The older girls chat up the punters, who congregate in makeshift cafes across the street.

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