A man has been charged with the brutal rape of a 12-year-old girl who worked alongside him in a Kampong Thom brick factory, prompting child rights groups to again call for the end of child labour at the dangerous sites.
The horrific attack comes two months after human rights group Licadho released research exposing widespread child labour and debt bondage in Cambodian brick factories, a report the Ministry of Labour quickly dismissed.
Suos Sovan, military police chief of Bureau 906 in Santuk district, said brick worker Phorn Dy, 20, was arrested after the girl’s screams raised the alarm to villagers in Kakoh commune.
The victim was left bleeding after she was attacked just after 10pm on Saturday night. “According to his confession, the suspect strangled the girl and raped her,” Sovan said. “If she did not shout out, he would have killed her.”
The victim’s mother, who asked not to be named, said she was in debt with AMK microfinance, and her daughter needed to work to help pay for schooling.
“Because my family is poor, I have to send her to work, even though the owner was not allowed to [hire her] . . . so we could send her to grade four,” the mother said, adding there were about 10 other children working at the site. “For me, I am old and my husband is sick, and when she works, she can earn 10,000 to 20,000 riel [$2.50 to $5] [per day] for her study and to help the family.”
She said her daughter was attacked in her sleep at home, 50 metres from the factory.
Provincial court spokesman Say Nora said Dy had been charged under Article 241, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Iman Mooroka, spokesperson for UNICEF, said illegal labour “deprives children of their childhood, negatively impacting on their social, physical and mental development”.
“It places children at risk of not only sexual abuse, but also exploitation and other harmful practices,” she said via email. “Perpetrators of sexual violence and those who breach labour laws, putting children in harm’s way, must be brought to justice, and proper counselling, care and support should be provided to the girl and her family.”
One Kakoh commune police officer, who asked not to be named, said the alleged perpetrator had attempted rape in the past, but that case had been settled for $100.
The police officer added that the owner of the brick factory – who could not be reached for comment – denied the child was working for him.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour was abroad and unable to comment yesterday, but pointed out the ministry would hold a summit and release a report on the child labour issue on Wednesday.
Of the 4 million children aged between 5 and 17 in the Kingdom, an estimated 11 percent or 440,000 were working as child labourers, according to 2012 International Labour Organisation figures.
The government claims this number dropped to 8.7 percent in 2015 and that they are aiming for zero by 2025.