NGO Recruits Drivers To Help Children

One hundred tuk-tuk and mo­torbike taxi drivers in Phnom Penh on Wednesday received di­plomas from ChildSafe Cam­bo­dia, a Friends-In­­ternational project in collaboration with Mith Sam­lanh and the Ministry of Tour­ism, recognizing their commitment to protect children.

The certificates followed a series of 20-minute sessions over a week or more where the drivers—along with 50 more in Siem Reap prov­ince—were trained on the streets to turn down requests to facilitate child prostitution and in some cases to inform the police or the NGO, said Marie Bizet-Pechoux, the Child­Safe coordinator at Friends.

“I am very happy to cooperate with ChildSafe,” motorbike taxi driver Van Pheap, 33, said before re­ceiving his certificate.

“It is very important for helping the children in the city.”

Bizet-Pechoux said the project aims to tackle child sex tourism from a domestic angle.

“Many NGOs work on tracking down pedophiles, but this is not our area,” she said.

“Our idea is to work directly with the facilitators, the Cam­bo­dians ra­ther than the foreigners. They can take the kids directly to the custom­ers. They can offer every kind of prostitution service as a provider of information. The idea is to raise their awareness, to open their eyes and to protect the children of Cam­bodia.”

Some drivers said they know to re­port child exploitation to the po­lice, or to refuse questionable clients.

In return for their cooperation, ChildSafe promotes drivers, both online and by distributing distinctive blue-and-orange shirts and hats that mark them as ChildSafe.

Tuk-tuk driver Hang Bun Nath, 40, says he wears his shirt often.

“When I wear this shirt, some for­eigners say they want to help me, and they take my motorbike around town,” he said.

“Because I help the NGO, foreigners also want to help me.”

Minister of Tourism Lay Pro­has is­­sued his own warning to child abusers.

“I want to send a very strong mes­­­sage to would-be perpetrators and to places that facilitate this kind of problem—if they facilitate this, they will be shut down,” he said.

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