The Shadows Floating Along The Mekong

A Vietnamese Cambodian couple, Hen and Tham, were forced to abandon their home on Tonle Sap Lake and move to Vietnam, rendering them stateless.

Ten o’clock one night during the dry season of 2016, Nguyen Van Hen (34) was fishing using a small gas-powered boat on the banks of the Tonle Sap in Pean Bang, Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Even though he wore a small headlamp, Hen limited his use of light. He fumbled in the dark to evade the patrols. He was not doing anything illegal, but he knew encounters with the patrol could only mean trouble.

Suddenly, a beam of light shone directly at him. A big plastic boat with armed police officers headed towards him. Afraid of being caught without bail, he jumped off his boat, swam into the forest, hid behind the bushes, then climbed up a tree.

The next morning, when a fishing boat passed by, Hen asked them for a ride and made his way back home. Meanwhile, Le Thi Tham, Hen’s wife, received a phone call from the villagers informing her, “Your husband is being chased by the police patrol.”

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