Trafficked to Thailand at the tender age of 8, young Longdy was forced to beg on the streets and suffered unimaginable abuse under a merciless broker who ruthlessly worked him. There was no form of escape and he lived under appalling conditions for some 5 years before he was finally rescued and sent to Hagar Cambodia for help.
Now 25, Longdy Chhap was in Singapore from 22-26 July and recounted his harrowing experience at Hagar Singapore’s charity golf tournament, and other donor and partner events…
Born on 9 September 1990 in Poipet, a town on the Thai-Cambodian border, Longdy is the second eldest among the six children. He was a sickly child since birth and at the age of 5, Longdy lost his legs to polio. Finding him a burden, one day, his mother seized the opportunity and sold him to a broker.
Although at a young age, Longdy understood the transaction between his mother and the broker. He accepted the arrangement as he was guilt-ridden for having caused his family to be poor. In Cambodia, people believe that when a family has a disabled child, they are doomed to be poor forever. The broker falsely assured Longdy that by following her to Thailand, he would be placed in a good job and all the money he earns would go back to his family. Her motives for bringing him to Thailand was not all they seemed and Longdy was trafficked to Thailand for begging when he was 8.
The next five years was a complete nightmare. And Longdy’s voice shook as he spoke about what happened.
“I would work from 5am until 6pm, sitting and begging for money. When I did not make enough money for them, the broker beat me violently. One day, someone felt sorry for me once, and made me a chair that I could sit on and move around with. The broker found out and she was afraid I would be rescued so she moved me to other locations to beg, and chained me to the spot so nobody can save me. Every night, I sleep alone on the streets, sometimes I was afraid, but sometimes not. To punish me for talking to people, the broker stopped giving me food. If I look small and weak, people would pity me and give me money. So she starved me so that more people will give me money. When the police come, the broker would transport me to a dark, deserted place. They made me crawl on my stomach across the dark forests to escape the police. This happened many times.”
Over a span of five years, Longdy was saved by the Thai police 5 times who sent him back to his family in Cambodia each time. However, his mother sold him back to the broker time and time again when he returned. Eventually, the police gave up and sent him to the International Organisation for Migration instead. From there, Longdy was sent to HAGAR Cambodia to receive help.
“People would talk about my legs and I would be angry. I was an angry kid; nobody could talk about me without me getting angry. I would break things around me when I was angry. I wouldn’t listen; I fought the little kids and used bad words. I copied what I saw in Thailand, the fighting and violent gang behaviour.”
It took Longdy many years before he started responding to the people around him. “When I met Mr Vanthy, the HAGAR project manager, his kindness and patience changed my life. He really loved me, I wanted to be like Mr Vanthy, so I decided to try and change. Same for Sue Hanna, she loves me and I know it. She’s like my second mum, she always understands and respects me. God also helped me a lot. I tried to listen to God and let Him heal me and change me. I always felt embarrassed and looked down on myself because of my disability. When I see people who could walk or run or play, I felt very horrible. One time, Mr Vanthy asked me to be a leader at a camp and that was a huge change for me. Because I realised I was like any other person – I can think, I have skills and I can learn like everybody else. This was my turning point. I decided I want to study so I can help other kids like me who have a traumatic background.”
Determined to make a difference, Longdy is now pursuing a Psychology degree at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and taking up a second degree in the English Language. At the same time, he is volunteering with HAGAR and counselling young boys who had suffered extreme abuse and exploitation, just like himself.
Read Longdy’s story as covered by the following media:
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