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Families allege child exploitation

Several boys and girls aged between 7 and 15 were allegedly physically abused for years and forced to sell food on the streets of Phnom Penh at night to pay off their parents’ debt, family and the rights group Adhoc said yesterday.

Two families filed separated complaints through Adhoc over the last few weeks for intervention. A member of one of the families, Chhieng Taing Y, 27, said her mother borrowed $100 from a woman, Sim Neng, in Kampong Chhnang town about four years ago. Unable to pay her debt, the mother sent Taing Y’s half-sister, 11, and half-brother, 7, to work for Neng.

Her siblings were deprived of schooling, food and rest, and eight months ago, she continued, both children were sent to the capital to work selling fruits on trays at restaurants in nine- to 10-hour night shifts for Neng’s sons, Maing and Vith.

“They were forced to sell all the fruits, or else they would not be allowed to return home and they would be beaten,” Taing Y said.

“My brother was kicked in the head and beaten with electrical wires and clothes hangers.” she added.

Taing Y found out about the abuse from neighbours, she says, and then directly from her siblings when she had the chance to see them during the recent Pchum Ben holiday.

When she took her siblings out of the situation, Neng and her sons sued her in Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court.

Neither Neng, nor prosecutor You Tithvattanak could be reached yesterday.

Sam Chankea, Adhoc provincial coordinator, said that it was odd for someone accused of exploiting children to sue for custody over them.

“I worry that the victim families will be charged if he court does not find the truth.”

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