Since police chief Ith Reaksmey began pinning “education posters” to the homes of abusive parents in his commune, he has noticed a shift in the child-rearing mindsets of locals.
Mr Reaksmey, chief of the Svay Cheik commune police in Siem Reap province, is one of more than 35 commune police chiefs in four districts taking part in a three-year child protection strategy implemented by Plan International Cambodia.
The tacking of “educational posters” on the homes of abusive parents is one aspect of the programme, which is being hailed as a success and framework for helping children on the heels of an NGO report that claimed more than 50 percent of the nation’s kids suffer from physical or mental abuse.
The NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child last weekend met with National Assembly members and tabled a report claiming 50 percent of children suffer abuse, urging the government to do more to safeguard them.
The Plan International Cambodia strategy in Siem Reap began in 2015 and will continue until 2018.
“Child abuse here has decreased,” said Mr Reaksmey, whose commune has 1,570 families, including 6,000 children and 9,000 people in total. “We implement the strategy’s methods, educating villagers to change their attitudes from fighting their children to aiding them through positive reinforcement.”
“Before there were many child abuse cases and violence in families, but no one reported it to police,” he added. “After our authorities and NGOs educated people, we now get reports of abuse and intervene on time.”
Mr Reaksmey explained that the intervention steps include the shame of education posters, as well as educational meetings with parents, the signing of contracts to change their parenting methods, and quick intervention.
“We do our best and use all the methods to make parents understand and change their ways before resorting to the last choice, taking them to court,” he said. “If we send the parents to prison, it will also negatively impact on their children.”
Mr Reaksmey added that the strategy includes education about stopping forced child labour and the importance of keeping children in school.
A 2014 Unicef report claimed more than 50 percent of children in the country experienced physical violence, while 25 percent were emotionally abused and roughly five percent experienced sexual abuse.
The health consequences of violence against children in Cambodia totalled $168 million in 2013, the report added.
Ty Sovannary, a child protection specialist with Plan International Cambodia, said changing the child-rearing methods of parents is the best way to improve the lives of children.
Mr Sovannary said his organisation has handled about 300 cases of abuse in Siem Reap province since the programme began in 2015, freeing at least 200 children from the grip of abuse.
“We respond to the abuse with consultation, providing people with new knowledge,” he said, noting it’s not just the parents being educated, but children and police as well. “The children are smarter than before. We teach both the children and parents how to prevent child abuse and how to help other children in distress.”