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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child beggars fake maiming to lift income

Child beggars fake maiming to lift income

TEN-year-old Srey Ny can't hide the pain she feels as she bends her right leg sharply

behind her knee before tightly binding it with three thick rubber bands.

Pulling a pair of pants over her bound limb, Ny is ready for another day's work sliding

along the ground around Pochentong Market, marketing a fake disability in the hopes

of increasing her earnings as a beggar.

Two weeks ago, Ny left school and became the breadwinner of her family of six, following

the lead of numerous other children in the fly-blown squatter community of Po Pros

near Pochentong railway station who fake disabilties and beg for a living.

"One day a taxi passenger at Psah Deum Kor asked me what was wrong with my leg,"

Ny says of why she does what she does. "When I told him I was a polio victim,

he gave me 5000 riel."

Ny learned the benefits of faking a disability from her 12- year-old neighbor, Nan

Syvann, who began binding her left leg "several months ago" to work the

crowds at Phnom Penh's Samaki market.

"Originally I begged walking around, and earned a few hundred riels [each day],"

Syvann explained. "I started to tie my leg a few months ago so that I could

earn more money."

In spite of such success, the long hours Ny and Syvann must stand for each day with

one limb twisted in an unnatural position is already causing muscle deterioration

in their bound limbs

"I'm really worried because my leg seems not to have any feeling ... [sometimes]

it's really painful," Ny said.

Helen Pitt, Executive Director of the Disability Action Council (DAC), says the appearance

of children twisting their limbs to boost their earnings as beggars is a new phenomenon

in Cambodia.

"I've certainly not heard of that in Cambodia before," Pitt said. "It's

an activity that may show either the desperation produced by poverty or a practice

of unscrupulous people to gain money."

Pitt said if Ny and Syvann really are victims of financial necessity, the DAC could

act to "provide support needed to stop this practice".

But Syvann's father, Chan Sophal, a former Funcinpec fighter who lost a leg to a

land mine in 1987 and has himself been a beggar since 1998, has little hope for his

daughter's future.

"We have no money, [so] I let her tie her leg," Sophal said. "Let

destiny decide our lives."

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