Raiding Brothels and Taking Names
How a midnight crusader became a daylight disruptor with grand plans to conquer Cambodia’s crippling culture of sex trafficking and child labor.
Photos by Erika Pineros
Afternoon is fading fast and Nget Thy is waiting for the Neak Loeung Ferry to cross the Mekong River in southern Cambodia. His destination is a transit center near the Vietnam border, where his small staff rescues and shelters children from Cambodia who’ve been taken from their homes and sent across the border to work as beggars.
These are young children whose parents cut off a finger or poke out an eye to make the little ones appear more sympathetic to wealthy foreigners – and thus more profitable beggars. Sometimes the children are sold for sex.
“It’s their parents who send them to beg,” Thy says. “Or their parents give them to a broker, who takes them across the border and makes them beg.”
Bespectacled and Zen-like in his calm, thirty-nine-year-old Thy has been a pauper, a homeless student, the de-facto manager of an orphanage, and a brothel-raider who disguised himself as a customer in order to rescue underage girls from forced prostitution. Today he’s executiv…