Cambodia has improved overall in protecting children from abuse and exploitation, the United Nations’ first Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) found in a report released yesterday, but the Kingdom has to take greater strides to further safeguard children’s rights.
The report – which was a product of a two-day hearing in Geneva in January with CRC members, the Cambodian government and local civil society organisations – assessed the steps Cambodia has taken since 2011 to honour two international treaties or optional protocols: one dealing with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and another on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
“Every state is different and has its specificities . . . and during the review, we assessed whether Cambodia has the right legal framework, enough resources and enough people to implement our recommendations,” said CRC member Bernard Gastaud.
Between 2011 and 2013, Cambodia recorded 86 cases of sex with a minor under 15 years of age, 24 incidents of child pornography and 12 cases of purchasing child prostitution, according to data sent by the government to the CRC.
The report commended Cambodia in the measures it took to implement the optional protocols like creating a National Plan for Child Development for 2014 to 2018 and adopting the National Plan of Action on Suppression of Trafficking, Smuggling, Labour and Sexual Exploitation.
“The government is making a more concerted effort to tackle the exploitation and abuse of children by creating specific mechanisms to address issues,” said Action Pour Les Enfants director Seila Samlang. “But while you see the political will of the government in these plans, they are not that effective yet.”
Like Samlang, the CRC report noted some areas of improvement such as expediting the enforcement of the national plans, raising public awareness of the international treaties and developing more comprehensive data to help gauge the psychological impact of child abuse.
“Violence against children is a significant problem across the region, as well as globally,” said UNICEF chief of communications Denise Shepherd-Johnson. “Without data, violence against children remains a hidden and silent issue.”
According to Gastaud, Cambodia still faces many hurdles, but expressed its intention to enact the CRC’s suggestions.
“We tried to convince the [Cambodian] delegation . . . to implement our recommendations, and during the dialogue, the state party seemed to receive it well,” Gastaud said. “When they come back for the following dialogue, we will see the gap between the promises, commitment and reality.”