[skip to content]

A chance encounter in Cambodia

mary haughI have sponsored a child with Plan Ireland for some years so, when I noticed that Plan Cambodia was holding a meeting in the hotel in Siem Reap where I was staying, I decided to introduce myself.

I was invited to visit the local Plan office where, two days later, I met the Unit Manager Pich Sophary who gave me an overview of Plan’s work in Cambodia.

Although I am familiar with Plan and the work it does for impoverished children around the world I was interested to hear that one of their most important programmes in Cambodia is a Civil Registration Campaign which is encouraging citizens to register with the authorities.

As a result of the horrors inflicted on the Cambodian people by The Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and ’79 when it is estimated over 2 million people, roughly a third of the population, lost their lives, very few births were registered. Now, thanks to the campaign, 92 percent of the population is registered.

Other work carried out by Plan in Cambodia includes the provision of basic education, child health, and water and sanitation projects.

Pich Sophary told me that child trafficking is a big problem in Cambodia. Desperately poor parents are tricked into selling their children by traffickers who promise them jobs. Many parents do not put much value on education, they feel that no matter how well educated their children are they will still end up as subsistence rice farmers.

Older children are also needed to look after younger siblings and farm animals. Girls are often raped while minding animals and I was told that it is not uncommon for pregnant young girls to try to abort by jumping from trees.

I was brought to visit a Plan funded school some 20 kilometres from Siem Reap in a village called Thnal Bandouy where, in stark contrast to this grim picture, over 1,000 children from surrounding villages attend school in two daily sessions.