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‘Shoeless’ boy gets PM’s gifts

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Kong Seiha of Banteay Srei district in Siem Reap province receives gifts from Prime Minister Hun Sen and other donors on Wednesday. TVK

‘Shoeless’ boy gets PM’s gifts

Prime Minister Hun Sen has given 20 million riel ($5,000) to Kong Seiha – a boy living in Run Ta Ek commune of Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district – and promised to build a house for his family, among other donations to them, according to provincial governor Tea Seiha on November 3.

Banteay Srei district governor Khim Finan told The Post on November 3 that the prime minister had provided the boy and his family with 20 million riel and promised them a house worth over $3,000 as well as a mobile phone, study materials and groceries.

“The governor brought [Hun Sen’s] gifts and money to the family of Kong Seiha this morning [November 3] and the construction of the house will begin soon. Officials will come and make a site inspection today or tomorrow to speed things along for them,” he said.

Seiha’s family has been showered with both public and private donations from a variety of sources ever since a photo of the boy arriving at school shoeless on the first day with his vaccination card in a plastic bag tied to his shirt – as an improvised means of waterproofing it – went viral following Hun Sen pointing it out as an example of why school children should be allowed to carry copies of their vaccination cards to school.

“On behalf of the district administration and local authorities, we are doing our best to facilitate arrangements for them to have a better life. They will be provided with both a home and help with establishing their own business because currently they are just working in other farmer’s rice fields,” Finan said.

He added that the family had received a significant amount of money and other material goods to sustain them for now and the district administration would help them open a suitable family business so they could sustain themselves in the future.

Leng Navatra, the general director of Borey Leng Navatra Group, also donated 20 million riel to Seiha for his education.

“In fact, you are very lucky to now have the opportunity to go to school. In past times when our country was struggling and was not at peace even studying was impossible,” Navatra wrote on Seiha’s Facebook page.

Venerable Hak Sienghai, executive director of the Buddhism for Education of Cambodia non-profit organisation founded by volunteer monks, paid a personal visit to Seiha and his family on November 3, bringing various gifts from donors to him and giving out study materials to Seiha and hundreds of other students living in the area.

According to Finan, Seiha is a first-grade student at Chey Primary School and he has a 5-year-old sister. They are from a very poor family whose parents are sharecroppers in Svay Leu district – farming other people’s land in exchange for a portion of the rice produced – because they don’t own any land themselves.

Finan said that when the schools were closed due to the pandemic they had to bring their children with them to work in the rice fields. Once the schools reopened they promptly sent their children back to school – despite their being shoeless for lack of money to buy any – leading to this surprise improvement in their fortunes.

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