A man has been charged with forcing his children to beg at Bokor traffic lights in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, as the Justice Minister called for tougher legal action against those who exploit young people to earn money.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Thun Thy, 37, with inciting his five children to beg. His wife was also accused of making the children work to earn cash for the family.
The children are aged one, nine, 10, 14 and 17. They were taken into the custody of social affairs officers and will be cared for at a children’s education centre.
The father has been detained at Prey Sar prison, while his wife was allowed to return to her home town after signing a contract promising to stop begging.
The eldest daughter, who is 17, told police she had been ordered by her parents to beg at traffic lights in Phnom Penh since the age of five. “I have never gone to school. I sleep at the corner of Sihanouk and Monivong Boulevard,” she said.
The third son of the accused, aged 10, is disabled. He was tired after begging one day and fell asleep on the pavement when a drunk driver ran over his back causing serious injury.
He said his parents did not take him to hospital, but left him to become disabled and bought him a wheelchair to help him make more money from begging.
“A car drove over me at a porridge restaurant near Central Market. I make 50,000 riel ($12) from begging each day and give it to my parents who wait for us in a tuk tuk,” he said.
The boy said his leg is disabled and he suffers from pain in his buttocks, for which he has never received medical attention.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana addressed a workshop on child labour yesterday.
He said the government was working to prevent child exploitation through begging, adding that education was key to solving the problem.
“It is a problem for the whole nation. Unicef says that no children aged between six and 12 should be walking around the streets when they should be at school,” he said.
“This is not only about law enforcement but education. If we educate children from a young age, they will not be so vulnerable to being deceived by other people.”