PHNOM PENH — Hundreds of Cambodian school children marched through the country’s capital on Sunday to mark the World Day Against Child Labour, waving banners calling for an end to the widespread practice.
The demonstration was organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Cambodian government, who have set a goal of ending the worst forms of child labour in the country by 2016.
They also announced the launch of an ambitious programme to rid Phnom Penh’s popular riverside area of child workers by this time next year.
Menacherry Paul Joseph, head of the ILO’s anti-child labour programme in Cambodia, said it was “a shame” that young children could be seen begging or selling books and souvenirs to tourists until late at night.
“Cambodia is truly a kingdom of wonder. Let us make it a kingdom without child labour,” he said at the rally, where demonstrators waved banners saying “Warning! Children in hazardous work – End child labour”.
According to the ILO, some 1.5 million Cambodians under the age of 18 are forced to work, more than 310,000 of them in hazardous jobs such as spraying pesticides or working in brick factories.
Ten-year-old child worker Soth Ousphea, watching the rally, said his mother could not afford to send him to school, and instead he earned around 50 cents a day collecting plastic bottles and cans.
“I want to go to school,” he told AFP.
Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, with around a third of its 14 million people living on less than a dollar per day.
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