Child Labor Probe on Preah Vihear Sugar Plantation Moves Forward

Police in Preah Vihear province say they have uncovered more evidence of child labor on a Chinese-owned sugarcane plantation and will send the case to court if further investigation confirms their preliminary findings.

A former employee of the Lan Feng plantation filed a complaint last month against Y Heng, the company managing the property, located in northern Cambodia.

Prang Thida, the head of anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection for the provincial police, said he recently obtained a list of employees from Y Heng and that the company confirmed that 20 of its 55 workers were between the ages of 13 and 17.

“We will go down to the company next week to investigate in more detail based on this list from the company,” he said. “If the children are really illegal and the company lets them work we will prepare the documents to send this case to court.”

Lor Chann, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he and his staff saw two to three children at work on the plantation during a drive around the property last week.

“We are still observing this case because the company is illegally abusing children and exploiting child labor,” he said.

Labor Law sets the minimum age for employment at 15. But it allows children as young as 12 to do light work deemed non-hazardous, as long as it does not interfere with their school attendance.

In a related case, about 200 ethnic minority Kuoy villagers involved in a land dispute with the Lan Feng plantation protested in front of the provincial police office Wednesday against the scheduled police questioning of three fellow villagers.

Deputy provincial police chief Keo Chamroeun said the three were summoned for questioning Wednesday because Lan Feng filed a complaint against them Tuesday for allegedly pulling out sugarcane stalks on the plantation.

He said the questioning was called off because the protesters insisted that it could only proceed if all 200 of them were allowed to attend.

“I don’t know who the land belongs to, but there was sugarcane growing on the land and the people destroyed the company’s property,” Mr. Chamroeun said.

The villagers say the land from which they removed the sugarcane belongs to them.

Keo Nil, a plantation foreman for Lan Feng, said he did not know about either the land dispute or the child labor allegations and declined to comment. A representative for Y Heng could not be reached.

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