The Labour Ministry on Friday sidestepped evidence uncovered by rights group Licadho suggesting the use of debt bondage is rife in Cambodian brick factories, instead choosing to question the group’s methods.
The statement, released in response to the group’s December 2 report Built on Slavery: Debt Bondage and Child Labour in Cambodia’s Brick Factories, failed to acknowledge researchers’ central claim: that many factory owners used indentured workers as a way of trapping families in poverty and servitude despite the practice being illegal under Cambodian law.
Instead, the ministry questioned why Licadho had not reported to officials alleged cases of child labour at the factories it visited. “The ministry regrets that Licadho officials failed to file a complaint to relevant authorities or the ministry to take children out of child labour, if they really saw such instances during their investigation,” the statement reads.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour attacked the group on Facebook, claiming its investigators lacked “professionalism and sympathy”. Sour was unreachable, but an official at the ministry’s child protection department, who would only give his name as Sopheak, claimed the ministry had eliminated child labour at brick factories. Sopheak called debt bondage, a practice which Licadho said draws the children of indebted workers into the industry, a “private matter”.
Licadho’s Am Sam Ath yesterday said the group would happily cooperate with authorities to improve conditions.