A couple may face up to five years behind bars after police rescued a large group of children the pair were exploiting as snack sellers on the streets of Phnom Penh.
The anti-human trafficking police found 22 children aged 6 to 16 at the home of Khen Vanthai, 30, and her husband Chea Sady, 28, at Derm Chan village, Chbar II commune, Chbar Ampov district, yesterday morning.
The youngsters were being sent into the capital every day from 6pm until as late as 5am to sell peanuts and fruit on the streets and at beer gardens, but were only given one meal a day by the couple.
Sok Savorn, Chbar Ampov II commune police chief, told the Post the authorities took the children, who are from Prey Veng and Kandal provinces, along with the two adults, to the Ministry of Interior for further interrogation.
“The couple said that some profits had been shared with those children so that they can put it aside when the work ends,” Savorn said.
But yesterday evening, Na Neang, deputy director of Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection at the Ministry of Interior, said that after hours of interrogation, authorities decided to charge the couple with “causing health problems and affecting the children’s studying”.
As a result, the suspects may be sentenced to between two and five years in prison.
Na Neang added that the couple only provided the children with dinner, but when it came to breakfast and lunch, they had to fend for themselves. In addition, the space provided for the children to sleep was narrow and noisy, which made it hard for them to rest.
“Both working conditions and shelter showed that these children were exploited by the couple,” she said.
Reflecting on the case, UNICEF’s Meas Bunly said: “Child exploitation is a serious violation of the rights of children.
It is the responsibility of families, broader communities and the government to prevent the exploitation of children.”
It was also important that the children who had been preyed upon got the help they needed to rebuild their lives.
“For children rescued from exploitation, the main priority is to provide effective support and child protection.
This support includes safe and nurturing accommodation, case planning and to help them to go back to school,” she said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMIE ELLIOTT