In a bid to show solidarity in uplifting child protection across the region, the country sent two young Cambodians to Jakarta, Indonesia to join the Asean regional children’s consultation earlier this month.
Ban Deth and Phkay Proek, both 17, went to Jakarta to take part in the regional discussion aimed to provide feasible and effective responses to end online sexual exploitation and abuse in the Asean region.
“We shared some problems common in Cambodia, such as the usage of Internet by children. It has advantages and disadvantages. But because we’re using it the wrong way, it has brought negative impact,” says Proek, a native of Prey Veng.
According to Plan International’s child protection officer, Hor Kosal, the conference was a great experience for the youth to be personally involved in the discussion concerning their safety and welfare. Mr Kosal also served as the guardian of Proek and Ban Deth.
“The kids had a meaningful participation in the event. They shared broad range of issues on online child exploitation in Cambodia. They also raised great questions and recommendations to the committee to address the issue,” shared Mr Kosal, noting that he also assisted the two young representatives in communicating with the other delegates.
The three-day conference, which was organised by the Child Rights Coalition Asia and supported by UNICEF, saw the gathering of at least 20 youth representatives from Asean member states. The regional discussion was held to tackle rising and worsening issues against child protection in the digital era.
The children’s recommendations were presented to over a hundred adult participants from government agencies, United Nations, private sectors and non-government organisations.
“The first point we raised was that the government needs to help strengthen the law of punishing people who create malicious posts and fake stories online. Secondly, all mobile network companies should not allow malicious and sexual contents to pop up when people use the Internet. Sometimes, links of website that are not suitable for children pop up and some people watch them,” Proek said.
She added that people in the community should also work hand in hand to spread awareness on the importance of responsible usage of Internet and technology in general. While these advancements are useful in information gathering and communicating with other people, they also pose risks to children and may be an avenue for violence.
“In classrooms, most of the students own modern phones which they can use to browse through websites. They should be informed to use it only for good purpose and not for their wrongdoings,” the young Cambodian representative said.
In recent years, the region has undeniably become a hotspot of online abuse and exploitation of children.
With the conference in Jakarta, the participants hoped that stricter and more effective laws and policies will soon be enforced to ensure that every child in Asia can live freely and be safe from exploitation and violence online or offline.