Street children in Cambodia were in danger of sexual abuse, human trafficking and traffic accidents when they peddled or begged, and their own families were often the perpetrators, NGOs yesterday told a conference aimed at focusing media and public attention to the issue.
“We are extremely sympathetic with the children who are forced to sell things on the streets by their parents,” Licadho’s Om Somath said.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 children work on the streets of Phnom Penh, according to a survey by local NGO Friends in 2001.
These child peddlers and beggars became frequent targets of human trafficking, sexual abuse or gang fights, Yim Sokhary, executive director of the Street Children Assistance and Development Program, a Phnom Penh-based NGO, told the conference.
About 700 children work on the streets of Sihanoukville, according to a survey by M’lop Tapang, a local NGO.
This year, the organisation had dealt with five cases of children abused by pedophiles when they were selling or begging, M’lop Tapang director Eve Sao Sarin said.
The organisation has been working with the police department and tourism organisations to register and protect the children.
It has recruited 23 hotels and dozens of motodops and tuk-tuk drivers around the city to “keep an eye” on these children and report to the organisation if they are in danger.
But these measures do nothing to keep children safe and sound at home.
M’lop Tapang has seen at least 10 families abuse their children by forcing them to go to work in the streets this year.
Some of these children were their families’ sole source of income, Eve Sao Sarin said.
Even when the organisation helped to send the children to public schools, they still had to work at night as a compromise with their families.
A considerable number of children in the Kingdom were forced to drop out of school, stripped of their right of education and hindered in their socialisation, Yim Sokhary said.
“Parents should consider it their obligation to take care of their children and guarantee them an access to education,” Om Somath said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Khoun Leakhana and Xiaoqing Pi at [email protected]