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

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement