Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Poipet children face abuse



Poipet children face abuse

A teenage boy smokes a cigarette as he walks in a street in Kingdom's border town of Poipet yesterday.
A teenage boy smokes a cigarette as he walks in a street in Kingdom's border town of Poipet yesterday. Ananth Baliga

Poipet children face abuse

The trend of Cambodian workers flocking to Thailand can have a devastating ripple effect on children living on the margins in the border town of Poipet, where they face a litany of risks such as drug use, sexual abuse and physical violence, according to a recent report.

The study, On the Border, from Swiss anti-violence NGO up! International, surveyed 80 children between the ages of 8 and 18 about their experiences of life on the streets of Poipet, where the vast majority had migrated in the hopes of finding economic opportunity, most of them with their families.

Boys in Poipet, researchers found, were four times more likely to report being victims of sexual violence than girls, despite the widespread perception that girls were far more at risk.

Drugs were also a major issue for boys on the border, with 40 percent saying they sniffed glue, and just under 30 percent saying they used crystal methamphetamine.

Report author Jarrett Davis said the small-scale study, released earlier this week, provided some insight into the perceptions of children living or working on the streets and how that diverged from the reality of the risks they faced.

“For girls, their most common fear was of rape, but for boys it was being beaten or hit by cars. Basically, the patterns emerging in the perceptions of violence followed pre-existing norms and cultural stereotypes,” he said.

“That was entirely inverse from their experiences, where males were four times more likely to report sexual touching [than females]”.

Almost a quarter (23 percent) of surveyed children were victims of sexual assault, while the majority of children (70 percent) said they had witnessed another child being beaten, slapped, choked or burnt.

A representation showing how street children in Poipet cross from Cambodia into Thailand. Photo supplied
A representation showing how street children in Poipet cross from Cambodia into Thailand. Photo supplied

More than 70 percent of the 80 children regularly crossed the border into Thailand to seek work or money; those who made the crossing were twice as likely to report physical violence and four times more likely to report being hurt or threatened by a weapon, compared to those who remained on the Cambodian side of the border.

Unicef spokesperson Iman Morooka said “children on the move” were often subjected to abuse and many have histories of “severe poverty”.

“Children with disabilities are also at risk of trafficking as they can be exploited to generate money when forced to beg or sell flowers on the streets,” she said in an email.

“Currently, child protection services for children on the move rely on services provided by non-governmental organizations which in [the] long-term will not be sustainable,” she said, urging the government to strengthen safety mechanisms for unaccompanied repatriated children.

Dy The Hoya, from labour rights group Central, said as impoverished parents sought work in Thailand, their children could be placed at increased social risk. “They often do not have access to school,” he said.

“A lot of very small children along the border are beggars, and we don’t see any action to take care for them,” he added.

The Ministry of Social Affairs did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year