The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation last week launched new child protection guidelines and standard operation procedure (SOP) for all town and district administrations. 

The new SOPs will allow each administration to ensure that local authorities and partner NGOs understand their role in responding to the needs of child victims.

A joint ministerial announcement explained that many children in Cambodia still face violence, exploitation and abuse on a daily basis. They said such violations of their rights occur in rich and poor families alike, with some cases becoming more severe.

The statement instructed provincial administrations, the Advisory Committee for Women and Children’s Affairs, social affairs departments, district and commune police, as well as other relevant authorities, to implement the SOPs against all forms of violence and exploitation. 

The guidelines also called on education institutions, health centres and NGOs to participate by assigning an official to report any suspected violence or abuse to the authorities.

According to the SOP, the guideline covers all people aged under 18, whether Cambodian or foreign, and regardless of whether they are dwelling in the Kingdom legally or illegally.

Phi No, director of the social affairs ministry’s Child Welfare Department, explained that the guidelines provide a complete set of SOPs which must be enforced by the authorities and NGOs, to effectively protect children.

“The benefit of releasing these guidelines is that all local authorities up to commune level will understand their roles, as have effective procedures in place for supporting children who are at risk,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, operations director at rights group LICADHO, said implementing the new guidelines is an excellent step, as it will encourage local authorities to cooperate with relevant partners to assist child victims.

“Naturally, they require strict implementation. The authorities should consider how the guideline can be enforced effectively,” he added.

The 2021-22 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS) said that 66 per cent of Cambodian children aged 1 to 14 years experienced some kind of punishment by an adult in their family. 

A 2022 study found that 11 per cent of people aged 12-17 had experienced exploitation or sexual harassment online.