Moody, dark clouds began to thunder across the sky near a market on Siem Reap’s outskirts, sending tarpaulin covers flailing and a curious crowd that had trickled into the nearby dusty Angkor Kyoung Yu field scrambling to find shelter.
The looming rain also whipped an impressive MTV stage crew into a whirl, frantically packing up amplifiers, artwork and a vibrant set in anticipation of the storm.
But tempestuous weather only briefly interrupted an otherwise slick operation last Saturday evening for MTV Exit’s (End Exploitation and Trafficking) finale concert, the final leg of a road show campaign through five provinces to heighten youth awareness of safe migration and anti-exploitation messages on a grassroots level.
MTV Exit’s partners include AusAid, USAid, Asean and local media. Anti Human Trafficking and Exploitation organisation Sisha was also on board, with an information stall with children’s games and a large mural for children to paint anti-trafficking messages on.
The MTV Exit team had staged 40 district-level screenings throughout Cambodia country since April, featuring Khmer chanteuse Khatsokhim and revered rapper Poukhlaing, who is also the MTV Exit Roadshow celebrity ambassador for Cambodia.
Coordinator Adam Sharpe told the Post last month that, “These provincial areas often have limited access to information and many do not know about the dangers of human trafficking.”
Meanwhile in Siem Reap the rain had eased by 6pm and the crew had returned, inflating a gargantuan portable cinema screen used to broadcast anti-exploitation cartoons and MTV’s Enslaved documentary later in the evening.
An inquisitive crowd of what was eventually almost 10,000 trickled into the grounds; parents with toddlers slung languidly on their hips, children and teens bouncing about and bemused oldies placidly observing.
Thirteen-year-old Seang Kimhun was at the stage’s edge, tapping her feet and looking up in awe. She’d never been to a concert before, or seen a set-up of this size.
“I’m here to see Pou Khlaing,” she gushed, “I love his music.”
Pou Khlaing himself said that music and entertainment was still the most effective way to propel crucial social messages.
He told Insider, “I think music is the best way to reach people. If you want them to notice something you can’t be forceful and just tell them so, it is a great tool to engage people to listen.”
He added that it was an issue close to his heart.
“This is something I have seen my whole life, growing up in Sihanoukville. Even my own family has been affected by this. Plus I lived in the States and talked to people that were open about their experiences over there, so it’s part of the reason I came back really.”
“When MTV asked me I just thought, ‘Yes, I have hit the jackpot, ’ because I could not just go and sing about these issues on my own. It’s a huge project to organise and a collaborative effort, so yeah, this was a platform to spread a message important to me.”
By 8pm, around 120 youth leaders gleaned from provinces had joined Loy 9 TV stars, Catherine and Yaro on stage before Pou Khlaing arrived
The rap star wowed the cheering crowd with his heavy bass, looping synths and ironic lyrics, tempered with Khatsokhim’s saccharine tones.
Pou Khlaing said the performance was “a huge success” and communicated the three big messages – don’t trust people you don’t know, don’t trust people that promise you they will take you somewhere, and don’t give your identity away to anyone.