“I thought he was already dead and I would never see him again.”
Not long ago 11-year old Samnang* was living happily with his mother and step-father. His original father had left years ago and was living as a monk in pagoda (Buddhist temple). The father would often phone his ex-wife and ask that Samnang come live with him in the pagoda so that he could get an education and become a monk in the future. Samnang’s mother finally agreed and the young boy moved away to live with his father.
Sadly, once he had moved to live with his father, Samnang’s life quickly became a nightmare. His father was violent and abusive. Fighting with the boy all the time and hitting and kicking him so hard that young Samnang had scars all over his body.
Samnang decided run away from the pagoda and from his father. With just a couple of dollars in his pocket he took a taxi truck to Sihanoukville. He did not know what he was going to do once he got to Sihanoukville. He just knew he had to get away from a bad situation. When he arrived he walked around alone. Tired, he stopped and sat down to watch a group playing volleyball in an open field. He sat there watching the people play volleyball until the sky became dark and all players had gone home. He started to cry because he didn’t know where to go and was afraid and alone.
A woman walking by saw young Samnang sitting alone and crying and stopped to ask him what was wrong. The woman was the mother of one of M’Lop Tapang’s staff. After listening to Samnang and learning about his story, the woman brought Samnang to stay at her own house so he would be safe. A phone call was made to the ChildSafe 24-Hour Confidential Hotline for help. Samnang didn’t know how to contact his mother and couldn’t remember her phone number but at least for now he had a place safe to stay.
Meanwhile, Samnang’s mother had learned he had run away and was trying to find him. She had been to the local police department and filled out all the necessary documents there. A few days later she came to M’Lop Tapang to ask for help and provided our Child Protection team with photos of her son, his background and her phone number to contact. That same afternoon one of the staff recognized the boy in the photo as the same boy her mother had found crying alone in the volleyball field.
Late that afternoon, mother and son were reunited. When the mother and Samnang met together they were so excited and they both cried because the mother thought that Samang was dead and never thought that she could meet her son again.
M’Lop Tapang’s Child Protection team and local authorities continue to work on the case.
*Name and photo changed for confidentiality