The permanent vice chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) delivered a progress report on efforts to eradicate child labour in the Kingdom on Tuesday, saying that factories are being investigated, and some shut down, for employing children illegally.
The report comes months after rights group Licadho released findings showing the prevalence of debt bondage and child labour at brick kilns – both illegal under Cambodian and international law. At the time, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng threatened the NGO with legal action if their observations were found to be inaccurate.
“The Ministry of Labour has inspected enterprises and institutions to check working conditions of young workers and to prevent child labour, taking firm action against any enterprises and institutions that have violated the law, and also removing 240 children from heavy labour,” including from brick factories, Chou Bun Eng, permanent vice chair of the NCCT, said at the body’s annual meeting at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday.
“The Siem Reap Provincial Labour Department has so far investigated 20 brick factories for child labour and continues to survey workers at 46 other brick factories. So far, three factories have been shut down and five others suspended,” she said, without disclosing how many children had been rescued from the factories.
Bun Chrim, Siem Reap Provincial Labour Department deputy head, said the department is actively working in two districts, Banteay Srei and Sotr Nikum, to support children who have previously been employed in such work.
“We have helped 70 children who were under 15 years old – we provide two-month supplementary courses when they can fit it in around school and provide snacks for them every day during the two months. When they go back to school, we give them school materials, two sets of uniforms and a pair of shoes. In 2017, we also provided vocational training for 20 people, aged between 15 and 20, in areas such as hair dressing and electrical maintenance,” Chrim said.
Chrim said that due to budget reduction and the high number of children involved in child labour, the amount of people they can help has decreased.
“This year our budget has been reduced. There are so many children [working in brick factories], but because we have a limited budget . . . we are restricted in how many we can help. I cannot give a figure [of how many children are working in factories] because there are so many children . . . and because we work in only two districts.”
Licadho’s senior investigator Am Sam Ath said: “In the past we have received information that children have been injured or died at brick factories . . . we have seen some owners of the factories stop using children, but others continue to allow children to work at their factories.
“Therefore we think that the ministry should inspect factories regularly in order to prevent the abuse and exploitation of children and stop workers borrowing owners’ money, because after that the children are forced to work to clear the family’s debt.”