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Happiness is not something you can hold in your hand. It is like water. It’s there, and then it is gone. All you are left with is the memory of how it felt. – Old woman



The Scent of Rumduol is the modern day story of Cambodian orphans, stolen childhoods, and of hope over adversity.

Sothea is twelve when she is rescued from a begging gang, only to be sold into laboring at a garment factory near Phnom Penh. When a strike at the factory ends in tragedy, she finds work at a shady hotel in the city, which doubles as a brothel. Sothea is persuaded to sell her virginity to make money to send her sick mother, but at the last moment, her purchaser changes his mind. To keep her quiet, the hotel owners sell her to an orphanage in Siem Reap, a bogus institution aimed at conning tourists. Sothea quietly and patiently plots her escape, while nurturing a dream of becoming a famous Khmer writer.

Brothers Sokhem and Vithu are nine and seven when they witness the violent murder of their mother by their drunken and abusive father. Initially sent to live with an aunt, they are found a place in a foreign orphanage near the sea. Sokhem’s concerns about the intent of the establishment and the nature of its English patron are confirmed when he realizes that Vithu has been invited to spend a night at the benefactor’s hotel. Sokhem arranges to go in his place, and there he is raped. Escaping from the orphanage, the boys find their way to Phnom Penh where they start a new life sifting through the city’s garbage dump. Sokhem briefly discovers drugs (methamphetamine) and witnesses the overdose and death of his new friend Chea. When Vithu becomes sick (which they attribute to bad karma after stealing food from a wedding), Sokhem makes it a mission to get his little brother to hospital. There, a chance meeting with a Canadian-Khmer doctor changes their destiny.


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