A 50-year-old Phnom Penh woman is set to be sent to court today following her Wednesday arrest for allegedly luring a 9-year-old boy to work for her as a beggar in the streets of the capital, alongside her own 9- and 12-year-old children and 1-year-old grandson, anti-trafficking police said.
Keo Thea, director of the anti-trafficking office in Phnom Penh, said Yong Khem could face up to one year in jail. It’s unknown for how long the boy had worked for the suspect.
“She hired the boy to be a beggar and [paid] the boy 10,000 riel per day,” Thea said. Through the questioning, police found out that the woman would sometimes send her 1-year-old grandson with the children so they could earn more.
Despite child beggars and trinket vendors being a near-ubiquitous sight, Thea insisted similar prosecutions aren’t common because hiring children to beg is rare, maintaining that it’s usually children’s parents sending them to ask for money.
But Vuthy Sokanha, of Friends International, said hiring children to beg “is not a new issue”, and that support services for families were needed to keep kids out of the streets.
“However, sustainable solutions are the only solutions that will work with beggars – and that takes time,” Sokanha said.
UNICEF spokeswoman Iman Morooka said there’s an urgent need to strengthen the child protection system in Cambodia. “The exploitation of children under any circumstances is never acceptable.”
Son Sophal, director of the Social Affairs Department, said all of the children had been placed in the care of an NGO.