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Government tackles child labour

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Veng Heang, director of the Ministry of Labour’s child labour department, speaks with the media. KT/Pann Rachana

The Ministry of Labour yesterday urged authorities, employers, communities and all stakeholders to strengthen measures to prevent child labour in the brick manufacturing sector and protect children from a dangerous work environment.

The call was made during a workshop held at the ministry to promote and discuss measures to prevent the use of child labour in the brick manufacturing sector in the capital and provinces.

Soeung Sorsocheta, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said that the government is focusing on promoting basic rights of children, as well as protecting them from labour exploitation, as part of the government’s efforts to end child labour by 2025, which is line with the global sustainable development goals.

Ms Sorsocheta said that the government has issued some priority measures to prevent some of the worst forms of child and forced labour, such as increasing the capacity of labour inspection officials, increasing collaboration with relevant ministries and institutions, and strengthening the mechanism against child labour and forced labour, especially in high-risk sectors and geographical areas.

“The ministry will also strengthen its core intervention mechanism to rescue child labours and prohibit forced labour, especially in brick manufacturing facilities, construction, and agro-industry, and strengthen the dissemination and campaigns against the worst forms of child labour and forced labour,” Ms Sorsocheta said.

Veng Heang, director of the Ministry of Labour’s child labour department, said that the ministry has previously also issued some measures to prevent child labour, especially in the brick manufacturing sector.

However, he added that due to a strong economic growth and the growing construction sector, the brick manufacturing sector has also expanded, including in number, size, and labour demand.

The condition has made the ministry becoming growingly concerned about the risk in children falling into the dangerous work involved in the industry, he noted.

“So, we have three angles to prevent [the problem],” Mr Heang said. “First, at schools, we have teachers to monitor the children in order to prevent them from going to work after school. Second, we look at the community level, where we will ask commune authorities to monitor homes in order to prevent children from going out of the community to the workplace. Third, employers have to be careful and must not recruit children under 15 years old to work, and labour inspection officials have to check working conditions and prevent children from entering the work force.”

Pech Theara, owner of Russey Cha brick manufacturing facility in Kratie province’s Chet Borei district, said that his facility has followed the ministry’s instructions in not recruiting children under the age of 18 to work, noting that employing underage workers affect productivity and goes against labour laws.

“It is not profitable if we employ children to work, they have to be of eligible age and have the strength to work,” Mr Theara said. “If they are little, they cannot work, because it is difficult, especially when there is an accident. And the inspection team also prohibits the use of children in the work force.”

According to Mr Heang, there are 400 brick manufacturing facilities across the country, an increase from 379 in 2016. Most facilities are large and operate modern equipment and demand more workers.

He added that there are currently almost 6,000 workers in the brick manufacturing sector, including 391 children that are allowed to work by law.

This year, one incident involving child labour occurred in March, when a 10-year-old girl lost her arm as she was operating a brick-making machine at a brick factory in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district.

In relation to the incident, rights group LICADHO on Wednesday reiterated its call that there should be no child labour in Cambodia and not a single minor should be injured or die at any workplace across all sectors.

It added that the Cambodian government must take credible steps against all forms of child labour and debt bonds, noting that until this occurs, the brutal form of contemporary slavery will continue to exist in Cambodia.

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