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Child street sellers targeted

Children hold anti-child labour posters at Wat Botum park in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Government officials announced a project yesterday to turn the capital’s Chaktomuk riverside area into a “child labour-free zone” by next year as part of a plan to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the Kingdom by 2016.

At the World Day Against Child Labour ceremony held in Phnom Penh yesterday, attended by around 1,000 people, Municipal Deputy Governor Touch Sarom said that the one-year project aimed to combat serious forms of child labour by placing children in the education system.

“We have to send children to school to urge them to be well-educated youths to contribute to the development of the country,” she said, adding that the project would receive funding and technical support from the International Labour Organisation.

Project workers have already identified around 400 children who sell flowers, books and trinkets along Phnom Penh’s riverside, as well as around 1,600 children considered at risk of participating in such activities, Joseph Menacherry, chief technical advisor at the ILO’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour, said yesterday.

“This has been identified by the government as one of the worst forms of child labour,” he said. “There is going to be a lot of work with the children, but also work with [local] shop-owners to discourage child labour.” 

“We [will] also help some of the poorest of the poor of the parents with income generation support,” he said.

Twelve-year-old Sang Piseth, who sells books and bracelets on the riverside,  said yesterday that he did not like the job but had to work because his parents needed money.

“We are poor, I have not much choice to decide,” he said. “I want to run any type of small business so that I can have more time to sleep.”

Lau Lisa, aged eight, attends school during the day but sells books along Phnom Penh’s riverside between 5pm and midnight.

“I am not sure I can stop selling books because there nine people in the family, none of them work, so I love to earn money and cover their costs,” she said yesterday.

Joseph Menacherry said that the ILO plans to provide around US$120,000 in funding for the project.

“We would be admitting around 2,000 children [into education], and some of them will go into non-formal education, vocational training, but the bulk of them will be going into schools,” he said.

“We are putting in place a child labour monitoring system which would be in place by the time this one year [project] is over.”Minister of Labour and Vocational Training, Vong Sauth, said at the ceremony yesterday at Wat Botum that the programme was due to be completed by the Municipal Department of Labour and Vocational Training, in cooperation with ILO, by June 12 next year.

An ILO report released on Friday estimated that there are around 215 million child labourers worldwide, out of whom an estimated 115 million participate in “hazardous work”. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI



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