In the Siem Reap area of Cambodia, money is sparse and labor is cheap. These conditions work against the economy and have even led to children being pulled into the labor force. At a local brick factory in the region, children had been forced into grueling work for long hours to pay off their family’s debts.
Thankfully, human rights activists from multiple organizations became familiar with the situation and collaborated on a plan to help the children. Organizations involved in the planning include Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), Agape International Missions, and the Siem Reap Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Police (AHTJPP) in Cambodia. Thanks to their careful and professional work, the ASEA Advancing Life Foundation was able to provide funds that allowed for the successful rescue of 30 children in dangerous slave labor jobs.
The team has been removing these children and their families from dangerous working conditions and forced child labor for the past five months. After evidence of child-exploitation was presented, the human rights team worked with the families to help them exit the factory jobs and receive appropriate care. Local police and authority officials then conducted official inspections of the factory. This was the first time any large-scale action against brick factories has been taken in Cambodia.
Through their investigations, the team discovered that one child who had been working with a rudimentary and outdated brick-making machine had her hair caught in the machine and an adult had to cut her hair off to remove her from the machinery. The children rescued ranged in age from 6 to 17 years old, and some of them had lived and worked at the factory their entire lives. Now, these children are receiving an education and vocational training while being provided with a safe home, a good diet, and counseling.
Although there are laws against human trafficking and sexual exploitation in place to protect childrenfrom dangerous work, these laws are not always strictly enforced. No one has yet been arrested in connection to this case and further action is in the hands of the prosecutor.
The rescue operation was the first of its kind and has now caught the attention of police and government officials, who will look to take action against brick factories exploiting child labor in their respective jurisdictions.