Some 200 children and youths from 13 provinces gathered in the capital on Monday to express their concerns over ongoing use of violence against children.
Civil society organisations, meanwhile, called for more collaboration with local communities and authorities to address the issue. The concerns were raised during a conference attended by government officials, NGOs and students.
The conference aimed to draw public attention to children’s plights prior to the upcoming International Children’s Day, which the government plans to mark under the theme “Promoting Children’s Rights through Elimination of all Forms of Child Abuses” on June 1.
Mao Reaksmy from an advocacy network promoting children’s rights in Battambang province, said the forum is important for children to gather ideas raised by participants and learn from experiences of others from across the Kingdom.
“We have been working on issues related to violence against children for ages, but violence continues to happen. So we, the younger generations, need to gather ideas and ponder ways to reduce or completely eliminate violence through such a forum."
“We have tried to boost awareness in local communities and various institutions before, but it has not been effective. Maybe we should produce more videos or short films for television shows because most Cambodians like to watch TV in their free time,” she said.
According to a study by World Vision, around 49.3 per cent or nearly half of all children of both genders between the ages of 12 and 18 were victims of physical abuse in the 12 months prior to the release of its findings last year.
The violence was mostly committed by parents, especially mothers and guardians hired to look after family members. At schools, the study found that physical abuse was mostly committed by male teachers.
Nhor Sieng Yiek, a 14-year-old ninth-grade pupil from Koh Slar High School in Kampot province, said violence against children in her community bears resemblance to that faced by children from other parts of the Kingdom, which she said occurs nearly every day.
“In my village, I haven’t seen any signs of a reduction in violence against children. Some parents force their children to look for jobs, while some fathers like to consume alcohol and find fault with their children and wives when they return home."
“In my village, the situation is different from others raised in the forum. While the situation in other villages has improved, violence against children in my village is getting worse. During our visit to raise awareness in the village, nobody paid attention and children were not even allowed to take part,” she said.
Son Penh, the executive director of Child Rights Coalition Cambodia (CRC-Cambodia), told The Post on Monday that violence against children had not decreased because of a deep-rooted mindset among parents. He said some parents believe that beating is the best way to educate their children.
The mindset, he said, has made public efforts to eliminate violence against children difficult while people in local communities refused to collaborate or participate in campaigns to prevent domestic violence.
“Without collaboration with parents or participation from local authorities, it would be really difficult to address the issue effectively although we try hard to boost public awareness and have strategies in place."
“It all comes down to people’s mindset. They still believe that beating is a good way although the opposite is true. They need to realise that there are better ways to educate their children by avoiding violence,” he said.
Touch Channy, a spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the ministry has created a task force to collaborate with partnered institutions to eliminate violence against children.
He said while the government has achieved many important results in addressing violence against children, Cambodia still faces many challenges in strengthening the child protection system, improving capacity building on the parts of local authorities and securing funds to effectively address the issue.
Channy acknowledged that a lack of collaboration with people in local communities has hindered efforts to eliminate violence against children.
“I think the main problem is that people’s understanding of the issue is still limited. Violence happens in both poor families with a low level of education and wealthy families with higher education. It shows that people are still not paying attention to this issue,” he said.