Child labour, sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking and unsafe migration are common in Cambodia. With almost 3 million poor people and more than 8 million near-poor, children are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. About 80 percent of them live in the countryside.

Child labour in Cambodia

Pervasive poverty is the principal reason for the existence of child labour. Poor families who lack of capital resources, skills and education and who have limited economic opportunities are likely to send children to work. It is estimated that more than 10% of children (or 429.380 children) in the country aged between 5 and 17 work as labourers, with more than 5% engaged in hazardous labour. About half of the child labourers in Cambodia are still in school, while the other half dropped out of school or never went to school and work full time.

Terre des Hommes’ Child Labour programme focused on child labour in the agriculture sector, brick making factories and garbage dumping sites in Pursat, Svay Rieng and Mondulkiri. We strengthened the child labour monitoring committees to work more effectively, to combat child labour and rescue children from hazardous work. We provided rehabilitation services including education and vocational training. Poverty alleviation is a key strategy to address prevention of child labour in the long term.

Sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the hotspots of sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. Sex offenders travel to Cambodia to sexually abuse children. Although sound qualitative and quantitative data is not available, it is estimated that out of all sex workers, over 2% is below 18. A lack of education and poverty makes children vulnerable to sexual exploitation in travel and tourism. This is reinforced by cultural values that treat sexual abuse as taboo and stigmatize abused children, making them feel ashamed and guilty.

Project WATCH was implemented in Cambodia to track down child sex offenders. Private detectives worked closely together with the police to make sure these offenders are arrested. We provided a safe environment for the victims, legal aid, healthcare, trauma counseling and education. We also worked on better implementation of national laws for child protection. The focused areas of this programme were Battambong, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk provinces.

Child trafficking and unsafe migration of children in Cambodia

Human trafficking in Cambodia is prevalent, victims are poor women, children and men. Vulnerable families try to cope with poverty through migration. They travel to urban centers or across borders uprooting children from the protection of their communities and making both adults and children vulnerable to exploitation, or worse, to become victim of trafficking.

In Cambodia, Terre des Hommes had a comprehensive anti trafficking and safe migration programme. We worked through partnership with local organisations in Cambodia on prevention through awareness raising and providing temporary shelters to victims of trafficking where they received counseling, legal aid, education or vocational training. When possible, the child victims were reintegrated to their family and community. We also advocated for better implementation of laws and procedures. This programme was implemented in Prey Veng, Siem Reap, Pursat, Svay Rieng, Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey, Poipet, Koh Kong, Battambang, Kampong Cham and Aranyaprathet.