Friday, June 22, 2012

Tag Team

So its been a very busy week but am blessed to have my boss and colleague Brian McConaghy here. We have lots to chat about and after picking him up from the airport tonight from Siem Reap we headed to a restaurant that is in a neighborhood that tourists normally hang out. Of course we were both hungry and as we stepped in the door of the restaurant, my hunger turn to disgust as I saw a much older Caucasian man with a very young Khmer girl.

As we got seated I suggested to Brian to look to his left as he had not seen this odd couple but a quick glance and his irritation rose. Unfortunately I didn't really bring my camera but had my phone which has a built in camera so we positioned it in such a way to take a photo. The girl  looked not much older than 14 or 15 years old so we began to discuss what we should do.  Initially we thought we'd wait till we finished eating before walking over to talk to them but a short while later as we got our food, we noticed the older man had paid the bill so we decided to go over and talk to them. Brian confronted the the guy while I chatted in Khmer to the young girl asking her how old she was. She indicated she was 23 years old but her face gave away a much younger age. I told her we were an organization that seeks to protect young women who are with foreigners who might want to hurt them. She didn't know how to respond. She sat with what seemed like a fake smile not sure what to make of this unexpected conversation. No doubt a bit embarrassed and uncertain about what this unexpected intrusion meant. In the mean time, Brian had a more direct confrontation with the pedophile who was clearly not amused. His conversation went something like this:

Brian: 'Hi 'is this your daughter?'' 
The man:  ''no she is a really lovely friend'', 
Brian: ''really!!! Is this the kind of friendship between your legs?"
The Man: ''no, we don't have sex"
Brian: Really!, You are the only guy in Phnom Penh that isn't like that
The Man: What business is it of yours?
Brian: I investigate people like you
The Man: its none of your business. Show me your credentials
Brian: I don't have to show you a thing
The Man: This is my country 
Brian: There is more than me watching you.

They left the restaurant as other patrons looked at us and this odd couple. Later as we were about to leave the restaurant the Khmer waiter came over and asked us what happened. We shared with him our love for the Khmer people and when we see such scenes like what we observed, we get very angry. He thanked us for speaking to the man and echoed similar sentiments that girl seemed only 14 or 15 years old. He mentioned that the ''man'' seemed quite mad at us but I said, ''well we are not afraid of him. We just want to expose his intentions.'' Anyway, its great to tag team with Brian this way. I have to say whatever fatigue I may have felt from a busy week gave way to a quick shot of adrenalin!

Living here in Cambodia, these kind of sights are quite common and it is not easy to watch such a young girl clinging onto the arms of such an old man acting as if she is enjoying his company. One can only imagine the personal prison she is in. Feeling trapped with no way out. As I think of her and many like her who find themselves in a similar predicament, I am reminded of Psalm 140: I say to the Lord, “You are my God.”   Hear, Lord, my cry for mercy. Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.Do not grant the wicked their desires, Lord; do not let their plans succeed.I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. (Psalm 140:6-8, 12)

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