A 9-year-old girl who was allegedly tortured while working as a housemaid for a family in Pursat province has been moved to a shelter in Phnom Penh, with officials saying her former employers were unlikely to face charges.
Chrin Sothy, communications coordinator at the NGO Hagar International, said the girl – who had been sheltered in an orphanage in Pursat’s Krakor district since Saturday, when she reportedly fled the Anlong Thnout commune home where she had been living and working – had arrived at the organisation’s Phnom Penh shelter on Wednesday morning.
“She seems fine, but we noticed she has some scars on her face, her hand and her back,” he said, and added that she would “for sure” need medical treatment for her wounds.
He said the girl was expected to stay at the shelter indefinitely, and that she would receive counseling and education.
“We are committed to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore her broken life,” he said.
Keat Sam, Anlong Thnout commune police chief, said that the girl’s employers were due to be questioned by police today.
“If they say that they beat the girl very hard [and inflicted] the wounds on the girl’s body, we will arrest them, but if they don’t we will release them,” he said.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said that, regardless of whether or not the girl was abused, her employers should be prosecuted for using underage staff.
He added, however, that this was unlikely to happen.
“So far I have not seen any employers prosecuted for employing underage domestic workers,” he said.
Under Cambodia’s Labour Law, it is illegal for children younger than 15 to enter the workforce, a rule that officials say is widely adhered to in the public sector, but weakly enforced in informal work such as domestic service.
A 2004 survey by the Cambodian government and the International Labour Organisation found that there were almost 28,000 children working in domestic service in Phnom Penh alone.
MP Joseph, the chief technical adviser at the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour, said yesterday that no comprehensive studies had been conducted since 2004, but noted that the number of child domestic workers in the capital was likely to have increased.
He said child domestic workers were more vulnerable to abuse than those working in other types of jobs.
“The chances of child domestic workers being mistreated are much higher,” he said.
“It’s hidden, it’s in a home, it’s not like a garment factory or somewhere where there are labour inspectors.
That’s one of the reasons it’s hazardous and we are trying to eliminate it completely.”