Carrying a stranger’s child through an uncertain time

Ly Raksmey left her home in the heart of the country’s rice bowl in January and headed to a hospital on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The 34-year-old stayed there several nights, in a facility that was better and cleaner than any hospital she had slept in before. When Ms. Raksmey, who asked that her real name be withheld because she wished to keep her involvement private, returned to her husband and three children in Prey Veng province, she was pregnant with the child of two people she had never met—and likely never will. Last year was a bad one for rice, Ms. Raksmey explained during an interview at a KFC fast-food outlet along Russian Boulevard in late September. In fact, the last few years had been bad for farmers in the southern province. “The rice these days isn’t so good,” she said. “The water has dried. We don’t sell any rice anymore, my family. We only farm it to eat. I sell a few pigs—mother pigs and babies. When the water does come, it floods the farmland and ruins the rice.”

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