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Ministry reminds departments to prevent child labour

Sen David / Khmer Times Share:
Brick Factory
A child works at a brick factory in Phnom Penh. KT/Siv Channa

The Labour Ministry is instructing all local labour departments to inspect local businesses, especially brick factories, to ensure that children are not employed.

In a Labour Ministry statement obtained yesterday, local labour department directors were told to prepare signboards informing business owners that employing minors is banned.

It noted that the signboards should also inform business owners that failing to comply could have legal repercussions.

Labour Minister Ith Samheng said employing minors is illegal, and brick factories must house their employees far away from the site in order to prevent children from going to work with their parents.

“Prohibit all forms of child labour exploitation and the practice of forcing children to work through debt,” Mr Samheng said.

“Owners of brick factories who do not follow this will face fines and closure.”

In October 2018, the Royal Holloway of the University of London released a report stating that the boom in the construction industry in the Kingdom was built on modern slavery.

The report, entitled “Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change from Cambodia”, shed light on “tens of thousands of debt-bonded families in Cambodia [working] to meet Phnom Penh’s insatiable appetite for bricks.”

“Urban development is built on unsustainable levels of debt taken on by rural families struggling to farm,” the report said.

“[Brick] Kiln owners repay farmers’ debts and offer a consolidated loan. In return, farmers and their families are compelled to enter [debt].”

Has Bunthy, director of the Svay Rieng provincial labour department, yesterday said he has received instructions from Mr Samheng, noting that he will order his officials to inspect brick factories.

He noted that his department previously inspected three brick factories, but no issues regarding the employment of children were found.

“We did not find anything related to child labour, but we do not know whether [the factories] were trying to hide the employment of children or not,” Mr Bunthy said. “We will further inspect them.”

He noted that he will instruct business owners to erect signboards saying that child labour is illegal.

“It’s dangerous for children to work at brick factories because big machines are used,” Mr Bunthy said. “Children could lose an arm or even die.”

Moeng Sam, 44, said she used to work in a brick factory four years ago, and that she used to bring her son to work.

“I always brought my son, but I stopped when the work became risky,” Ms Sam said. “I stopped working and we moved to Phnom Penh. I don’t want my son to work there. I now work at a restaurant”

In March, a nine-year-old girl lost her arm while working at a brick factory in Kandal province. The factory was then closed and the victim received $1,500 in compensation.

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