by Ly Pov (12 years old)
There was once a town that had no police on its streets. The town had police, but they all stayed in the police station and never did patrols. They were lazy and only became police because it was easy and they didn’t have to answer to anyone. Because there were never any police outside, the town had many thieves. One day, a thief was in the town market, and he stole all of the money from one of the sellers. There was one policeman in the market on that day, however. He was only there because he was shopping. He saw the thief running with the bag of money and shot him. The thief died.
Soon after, all the other thieves showed up with shotguns. They were all angry because the policeman shot one of their gang members. They wanted revenge, but the policeman had already escaped to the police station, so the gang couldn’t find him. They said “If the policeman won’t come out, then we are going to start looting everything in the village until he comes out.”
The thieves started robbing and destroying the whole village. The villagers were very angry with the police for not helping, so they crowded the police station. Eventually, the entire police force had to come out to stop the thieves. Then the gang and police had a huge battle throughout the whole village. Eventually, the police killed all of the thieves, but a lot of the village was burnt down in the battle. Also, many of the villagers were injured. The villagers were angry with the police, and said that none of this would have happened if the police protected them in the beginning. The villagers said the police need to protect everyone, or next time it could be the policemen’s own houses that burn down. Now the police actively patrol the entire village.
I have a lot of stories from the kids I met in Cambodia, and holy crap there is some heavy stuff coming out of those guys. I’m not talking “a little weird but a little cute. These kids come up with darndest things”. I’m talking deep, serious, and important stuff that shows very real things dealt with in their lives. I guess it is to be expected when you are a child of one of the poorest countries in the continent. Thanks to the complete destruction of their social and legal structure (as well as the systematic murder of a 3rd of the population) during the Khmer Rouge era, Cambodia is still very much a young country trying to work out how to exist socially as well as economically. This means a lot of these little guys are dealing with corruption on every level, from politicians to their own teachers, and of course: the police.
None of the children seemed to hold the police force in a particularly good light, probably because of the daily bribes and the ease of being bought off. Ly Pov’s story here shows just what he feels about his local police: Just there to collect a paycheck. To be fair, the police in real life don’t make a very big check, which is why many turn to extortion, but Ly shows the consequences of being lax in the system, and he isn’t afraid to voice it. This is why this project is important to me, and to everyone I work with: it gives them a voice. Or rather, it helps them to realize the voice they already had but weren’t aware it could be used.
I particularly love that the story reads like an old western flick. The town folding in against itself in war is almost like it was pulled straight from 7:10 to Yuma. But, of course, Ly hasn’t ever even heard of that movie. And even though there are tragic consequences and a very climactic 2nd act, it has a bittersweet ending, and a lesson learned.