Homeless children run away from poverty only to try to survive
July 3, 2010, 1:52 am
Filed under: Social Issues

“Going into the water, there are crocodiles,

Going up on land, there are tigers”

 Homeless children run away from poverty only to try to survive

the urban Big Brother’s exploitation

by Tum Chita, Kiss Magazine


            When a 13-year old teenage boy called Kea deserted his mother and relatives in Prasith village, north of Phnom Penh, to live in the city as a homeless beggar, he hoped that he would free himself from his rural poverty, but he was absolutely wrong.

            Life as a homeless boy in the city not only does not relieve him of poverty, but also causes him to confront exploitation from big Brothers and use of drugs.

            However, Kea is not the only homeless boy who has to confront the problem of big brothers and drugs doing.

            Mrs. Mob Somaya, program officer of the Mith Samlanh organization, said that there were from 10,000 to 20,000 homeless children living on the streets in Phnom Penh. She said her organization had worked with 15,00 to 2,000 homeless children who had run away from droughts, floods and starvation in the rural areas such as Kea and other homeless children in Phnom Penh.

            Mrs. Somaya went on to say that these children lived freely without anyone controlling them. She further said these homeless children made a living in different ways. Some earned money by guarding cars outside hotels, selling newspapers and flowers, scavenging garbage or even by selling their own blood, sex and committing theft, which she thought they would be vulnerable to contracting AIDS and doing drugs.

            Mrs. Somaya explained that these children would do anything just to survive and they did not care about their health for money. Worse still, most homeless children like Kea have often been bullied by the big Brother gangs.

            Kea said he and many other homeless children had been threatened by big Brothers to earn money for them and to do drugs. He complained: “Because I am afraid of being bullied by those big Brothers, I have to give the money I have begged to them to buy glue to sniff and sometimes they also threaten me to sniff the glue with them.”

            Kea said after sniffing glue, he often sat on his buttocks with the knees folded close to the chest and the arms clasped around the knees and looked at the other side of the river, thinking about his life, which could be compared to the current of water flowing aimlessly. He said he did not know what his life would turn out to be in the future.

            Like most homeless children, Kea does not go to school or receive any type of training. Kea said hopelessly: “I am illiterate. I also want to learn like other children, but I am poor.”

            Like Kea, another boy went by the name of Phat, aged 14, ran away from his poor family in Kien Svay district, Kandal province, to live as an homeless boy in Phnom Penh. He could earn from 4,000 to 5,000 riel by trapping birds for sale in front of the royal palace. Not different from Kea and other homeless children, he was sometimes bullied by big Brothers who took his money to buy glue or drugs.

            Phat said: “I’m forced to do drugs for fear that they bully me.” Phat said he also wanted to go to school like other children, but he could not do that and that he did not know what his future would look like.

            As for another 13-year old teenage girl called Srey Mao, she left her family in Stung Treng province to come to live in Phnom Penh. She could earn from 2,000 to 3,000 riel a day by begging or taking care of people’s shoes. She was not different from other children as she was sometimes threatened by drugs doers to give her money to them to buy glue to sniff and she was sometimes forced to sniff glue with them as well. She said she also wanted to go to school like other children, but she could not do it and did not know what she would be in the future.

            Related to the human trafficking, Mrs. Somaly Mam, director general of Afesip in Cambodia, said the Afesip organization in Cambodia helped victims from human trafficking by legal means at the municipal and provincial courts and helped them search for lawyers to defend their cases at the law court, follow up the victims’ complaints and helped the victims answer questions at the court, especially Afesip has a group of investigators to search for victims of the human trafficking all over the country through information directly given by the victims who had run away from brothels or other places or through people living in different circles. The investigation group has been sent to various provinces and towns to get information on the trafficking of women and children and to send report to the legal section to lodge complaints to the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Minors Protection of the Ministry of Interior.

            Concerning this human trafficking issue, His Excellency Brigadier General Ten Borany, deputy chief of the anti-human trafficking and minors protection department, said that human trafficking had been conducted in many forms such as in the form of labor exploitation by employing people to work on fishing boats, at various construction sites or at various factories either without wages or with low wages. Mr. Brigadier General further said some of the Khmer workers who worked on fishing boats due to being cheated had been tortured to death.

            Mr. San Sophal, director of the Phnom Penh Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation Department, said that saving homeless people was the duty of his department, which had so far obtained considerable success.

            Mr. the director stressed that a lot of homeless children had been freed from drugs doing or begging and some of them had been sent to live at centers and to receive training in different skills from the partner organizations, but he complained that some civil organizations had criticized all these saving activities as human rights violation.

            However, due to the limited fund of the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, Kea and other homeless children still might continue living on the streets and be subject to exploitation and threat from those big Brothers.


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