This is Praoh. He approached us when he saw us resting in front of the Banthey Kdei Temple. He tried to sell us some souvenirs and postcards. But I was warned about this earlier. Buying souvenirs from these kids would ensure that they would be on the street all their lives. This is because kids like Praoh are usually forced by their families or their carers to make money for them, depriving these children of proper education. I asked Praoh about school. I asked him why was he not in school?… he quickly replied “I go to school in the morning”. Hearing this I showed him my watch and said..” but it’s morning right now why are you not in school” He quickly changed his story said he would go to school in the evening…. that’s a well rehearsed answer. I had asked the very same question to other kids before and I always got the same answer. These kids were taught to say this because most tourist would ask them the same question. So I asked him to give me the name of his school and one of his teachers. He couldn’t. He was flustered and looked almost embarrassed. Those were the questions that he was not taught how to answer.
I asked him if his parents were selling souvenirs around the temples too.. he told me that his parents lives far away. He lives with with this woman he called aunty. From the sound of his explanation I think he is living in an orphanage. There are many orphanages in Cambodia… many are supported by foreign NGOs. But there are also orphanages that are run by crooks who used children to scam tourists or to make money for them by selling souvenirs on the street… It is sad.
I felt sorry for Praoh but I did not want to buy anything… so I told my sister to give him Chocolate. He was happy to get the chocolate and said his goodbye. A few minutes later he returned with a group of his friends … all asking for chocolates!!