The Storm Makers premieres Monday, August 31, 2015, at 10 PM on PBS stations.
At the age of 16, Aya was sold to work as a maid in Malaysia. She was exploited and beaten and eventually ran away, only to be captured and raped. When she returns home with an infant son, she is just as poor as when she left. Her mother greets her not with joy, but with anger that her daughter has come back with yet another mouth to feed instead of money. “I should have died over there.” says Aya in a singsong, childlike voice that masks the horrors she endured.
The young people from her remote village have migrated to work abroad. Empty houses are left behind. Cambodians call places like Aya’s village “ghost towns.” Suon and his assistant director, Phally Ngoeum, researched and filmed for three years, spending long periods in Cambodia’s villages and cities, and were able to gain the trust of both the victims and perpetrators of trafficking.
Pou Houy, 52, is a successful trafficker who runs a recruitment agency in Phnom Penh and claims to have sold more than 500 girls. Shockingly outspoken and shameless, he expresses no remorse and sees himself as a smart businessman, a good provider and even a good Christian. Although his company has been accused of trafficking by the local media, he has never been investigated by the police and continues to recruit young and poor Cambodians to work abroad.
Pou Houy’s enterprise relies on local recruiters, who bring him candidates from their rural communities. One of these is Ming Dy, who sold her own daughter and continues to supply Houy with new recruits from her village. She justifies her actions by claiming she has no other way to pay her bills.
“Would you sell your neighbor or even your own child to a trafficking network in order to save your family?” asks filmmaker Guillaume Suon. “Which one of your children would you sacrifice? What becomes of your humanity once you decide to exploit another human being for profit?
“Cambodian migrants have been reduced to the status of slaves. They are transparent, or worse, completely invisible. I want migrants like Aya to feel free in front of the camera, allowing words to serve as therapy and an escape from the past.”
Visit the POV companion site for The Storm Makers to watch the full film online for free for a limited time following the broadcast (starting September 1, 2015), find out what’s happened since the cameras stopped rolling, and download a discussion guide and other viewing resources. Share your thoughts and ask questions by using the hashtag #TheStormMakers.