The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on Monday held a seminar attended by some 100 participants from all departments and relevant authorities from across the Kingdom to strengthen measures preventing children being used as labour at brick factories.
Veng Heang, secretary-general of the Secretariat of the National Committee Against Child Labour, said that since 2006, the government had executed four key measures to stop the use of child labour at brick factories.
These include preventing children from entering dangerous work sites, rescuing minors from the most serious forms of hard labour and providing education and skills training.
Since the implementation of the measures, the use of child labour was not found at clay kilns between 2013 and 2016, Heang said.
However, a nine-year-old girl, Chheng Srey Pheak, was seriously injured in an accident at a brick factory in March and lost her right arm to a machine at a kiln owned by Leang Srun in Kandal province.
In 2016, the ministry found that the number of brick kilns had grown sharply, raising serious concerns that the use of child labour may also increase, Heang said.
“So today’s workshop was to discuss measures to be taken to ensure that children will not fall into dangerous work. What should be done? This was the question we posed to create the guidelines,” he said.
The guidelines call for schools to make sure children did not play truant to work at brick kilns.
Local authorities were also to monitor minors from their schools to their homes to ensure that they did not engage in child labour.
The owners of clay kilns are not to recruit children and department of labour officials are to inspect sites on a regular basis, Heang said.
The number of brick factories rose to 400 this year. Around 6,000 people were employed at them, with 391 of the children over 15 years old and legally entitled to do so, he said.
After a series of workshops, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training issued a directive on June 5 urging all departments to instruct brick kiln owners on measures to keep children safe.
The ministry will prohibit debt slavery and crack down on the use of child labour at clay kiln factories, with the practice now to be prosecuted under criminal law.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at rights group Licadho, said on Monday that concerted effort was needed to end child labour at clay kilns.
“If brick kiln owners continue to use children as labour and put them in danger, [the ministry] must enforce civil and criminal law. But what is most important is having the mechanism for the regular monitoring and inspection of brick factories,” Sam Ath said.
Licadho released a report in 2016 on debt bondage and child labour at Cambodia’s brick factories.
It found that since 2002, five children working at brick factories had lost arms to machines in accidents, with one dying of their injuries.
Soeung Sar Sochetta, secretary of state of the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said the government considered ending child labour, which was one of the most important issues facing Cambodia, with efforts in place to completely eradicate the practice by 2025.
“This is the first time that all relevant parties at national and sub-national institutions have attended a workshop on guidelines for the prevention of child labour in the brick kiln sector,” Sar Sochetta said.