International Labor Organization representatives urged legislators at a workshop on Wednesday to ratify a convention it says is crucial to prohibiting and eliminating the cruelest forms of child labor.
“Cambodia has taken a liberal approach to the labor law, but it is starting from a very low base on child labor because of its rural-based economy,” said Tim De Meyer, an ILO specialist on global labor standards and labor law.
More than 2 million underage children between the ages of 5 and 17 years are working in Cambodia, said Mar Sophea, ILO national manager for the Program on the Elimination of Child Labor.
He said about 80 percent of these children work in agricultural sectors such as logging and fishing, with other underage workers occupied by industrial and service-related enterprises.
De Meyer said Cambodia’s 1999 ratification of ILO Convention 138, which aims to promote and defend the interests of all laborers, has proven effective. But he added that the country should now pass Convention 182, which calls for immediate action against the worst forms of child labor.
The ILO considers hazardous work, prostitution or pornography, illicit activities or forced labor to be the worst forms of child labor.
“Cambodia doesn’t have the mechanisms to get a grip on the situation yet,” De Meyer said, noting that the country still does not have a mechanism to regularly monitor rural working conditions.
CPP Senator Chhea Thang, vice chairman of the Senate’s Health, Social and Women’s Affairs Commission, said he would encourage legislators to pass the convention, but doubted it would happen since the National Assembly is in recess until June and likely will not meet again until after the July elections.