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Rescue in Cambodia

April 1st, 2021

Imagine that you’re a boy in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Your mother has a mental health problem and each of your three brothers had different fathers.

Day to day life is a struggle because your grandmother is the breadwinner of the family. Imagine that her way to make a living is to collect metal scraps to sell. As the eldest brother, you have no options but to help her. This is *Sokchea’s reality, a 12-old-boy living in Kandal Province. 

Vulnerable to danger

After school, Sokchea helps his grandmother in collecting metal scraps. The collection was always tough and Sokchea sometimes begged money from the public. In 2019, Sokchea met with a foreign national during his scrap collection and he begged him for money. 

After the first encounter, the foreign national continued to be in contact with Sokchea despite a language barrier between them. The foreign national used Google Translate to communicate with Sokchea. At the same time, that foreigner used his mobile phone to lure Sokchea into a closer relationship by allowing Sokchea to watch movies and play games on his mobile phone. 

After gaining further trust and having a closer relationship, the foreigner brought Sokchea into his car where he could spend a great deal of time with Sokchea. Taking advantage of the situation, the foreigner molested Sokchea.

Protective Network

When two of Sokchea’s friends learned about the incident, they reported it to a social worker from APLE, a partner organisation of Terre des Hommes Netherlands. APLE immediately alerted Kandal provincial Anti Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police to take swift investigative action. However, it took the police a few months to identify the foreigner due to his caution about his contact with Sokchea. 

In May 2020, the police located the foreigner and conducted a rescue operation when he was taking Sokchea into his car. Both Sokchea and the foreigner were taken to the police office for further investigation. The foreigner confessed to have performed sexual activities with Sokchea and paid him for such acts. 

Seeking for Justice

Apart from assisting the police investigation, APLE’s court support team (consisting of social and legal team) took immediate action to support Sokchea with rescue kits, counseling, and accompanying him to police interviews. To add, APLE’s social team coordinated with government officials and institutions to understand his family situation and how they further suppor them. 

APLE’s legal team started working with the family, including the grandmother, to pursue justice while APLE’s lawyers provided them with legal counseling, guided the grandmother about legal proceedings, and represented them in the court. 

Recovery

Sokchea was provided with psychological counseling and other needs to rehabilitate his family and his community. Sokchea’s emotional well-being has gradually improved. He received two counseling sessions per month, welfare support, and school materials, including uniforms. After his rescue, Sokchea continued his education and stopped going out and begging for money. 

In his court procedure, Sokchea was invited by Kandal provincial court to testify. Sokchea and his grandmother joined the testimony and felt more confident after being represented by APLE’s lawyer. Sokchea thanked APLE who provided the support and expressed with a big smile, “I am happy that the American man is arrested so that he can’t abuse others”.  

With Terre des Hommes and its partners, boys such as Sokchea are provided with the support that they need and given opportunities to pursue their hopes and dreams, away from sexual exploitation. 

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