Friday, September 24, 2010


Its not often that I cry in Cambodia. Yes, the dirty children and the land mine victims begging is distressing but after a period of time these become everyday scenes and you just get on with your life without such things playing on your mind too much (I guess it is just a survival thing - you can't change everything after all...).

However, today I was dropped off at the airport by a Cambodian - Canadian who escaped the Khmer Rouge. She now runs an NGO dealing with trafficking. As she dropped me off she alerted me to a group of girls, no older than 18 (looking like 14 year olds) who were all dressed in either pink or yellow T shirts. Their hair was short. Cambodian women treasure their long hair so this was odd.

She explained to me that they were all going to Kuala Lumpur to work in Malaysia as domestic workers. A closer inspection of the T shirts showed the name of the organisation sending them. They sat in a row waiting....

The next time I saw them was after check in and they were going up past passport control. In Phnom Penh the escalator goes past a glass wall to the outside of the airport. By this stage the families of the children in the bright coloured T shirts had gathered and they were waving. The children (because they were really children whatever their fake ages on their passports said) were crying, sobbing. It set me off too. They looked so innocent and petrified.

One in particular was sobbing on the plane. When it took off it was more of a howl. So very very sad. These girls, almost certainly, still lived at home, had never previously left the country and then all of a sudden they were being whisked away to work in a house (or something less desireous in due course) in a different country with a different language and culture - for very little money. They may only be an hour plane journey away from their homes but if you have no money and possibly someone else controlling your passport it is not that you can just return home when it all goes wrong.

When we arrived at Kuala Lumpur all I could do was smile at them a lot and hope that their final destination was a happy enough place for them.

1 comment:

Donna Kemp said...

Thank you for making me and your your blog readers aware of this inhumanity Michelle.The world has not changed enough for the most vulnerable people on our planet and these are still women and children particularly - in my view. Trafficking is a global slave trade under a new name. Its a problem here in Bristol too. Your tears like your blog and the work you do in Cambodia are evidence of your humanity and I am very proud of you. Keep going darling you are doing your bit my daughter the one woman activist!