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MTV tour spreads message

Kung Boran performs at an MTV EXIT show in Kampong Cham, organised to educate youth about human trafficking. Photograph: supplied

Since its founding more than 30 years ago, MTV has had a transformative impact on the music industry across the world. Alongside its efforts in ushering in some of the biggest musical trends of the past three decades and pioneering the development of modern reality television, the iconic network can now add social advocacy to its list of credentials.

The MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign, drawing on the network’s immense musical resources, has teamed up with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the foreign aid departments of the US and Australian governments in an ongoing programme to increase awareness and prevent the exploitation and trafficking of young people from across Asia.

In Cambodia, a National Trafficking-in-Persons Prevention Roadshow is now taking the organisation through five provinces.

After performances in Prey Veng and Kampong Cham last month, the MTV EXIT team will travel through Koh Kong, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap in June and July. Each province has been chosen due to the high incidence of trafficking in the localities.

“The focus of the selection process was to choose five key provinces with a high prevalence of reported human trafficking cases,” says Shane Lee, MTV EXIT’s communications manager.

“These five provinces were chosen in strict consultation with local counter-trafficking organisations in Cambodia, and Winrock International, which is also working closely with the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labor and Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children.”

Each leg of the tour features a number of educational activities led by musicians, dancers and comedians. Organisers have announced that the popular rapper Poukhliang will be performing at all shows.

In one interactive workshop, children are invited to participate in the painting of an anti-trafficking mural led by two young professional artists.

Helping to spread the message in Cambodia are a selection of local youth leaders, drawn from the ranks of an MTV EXIT forum held in Phnom Penh last year and membership of the Khmer Youth Association.

Many of the young representatives have been drawn from the provinces that the road show will tour through over the course of the tour.

Matt Love, MTV EXIT’s campaign director, says that education about the dangers of labour and sexual trafficking in the region is the first step towards eliminating the practice.

“The power of conversation is important,” says Love. “Being informed is the first step to protecting ourselves. MTV EXIT’s peer-to-peer learning approach seeks to empower young people to be equipped with knowledge and toolkits, therefore provide them with the platform to spread key anti-trafficking messages on a grassroots level across Cambodia.”

Lee says that in isolated parts of the country, where access to broadcast media is limited, the onus falls upon local youth to spread the word.

“Over and above mass media efforts to spread the awareness, it is important to reach out to vulnerable communities who have limited access to education on human trafficking and exploitation,” Lee says.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sean Gleeson at



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