In the second case in less than two weeks, a 50-year-old woman was provisionally charged on Tuesday for forcing children to beg on the streets of Phnom Penh, a practice police said was being copied from Thailand and Vietnam.
Phoung Channy was arrested on Friday on suspicion of forcing seven children between the ages of 6 months and 12 years to beg, said Sen Komonn, chief of the municipal military police’s anti-human trafficking bureau.
Under questioning, Ms. Channy admitted to running begging rings for eight years and claimed the children were members of her family, although she did not know the whereabouts of their parents, Mr. Komonn said.
“She said their parents had gone somewhere else and were nowhere to be found,” he said.
The children typically earned between $5 and $7.50 a day, but sometimes pocketed as much as $20 each, Mr. Komonn said.
If they earned less than $2, Ms. Channy would beat them with electric wires and ban them from her rented house near Wat Phnom, forcing them to sleep on public benches, he said.
“She only allowed them to enter the house when they earned the money,” Mr. Komonn said. “There were pictures showing them sleeping on the benches as we opened the investigation.”
When they went out to work, the baby was given a sleeping pill, Mr. Komonn said. The two girls and five boys were being cared for at three local NGOs, including International Justice Mission (IJM), he said.
As part of the investigation —undertaken with IJM, another local NGO and the municipal department of social affairs—officials had concluded that the ringleaders were taking tips from Thailand and Vietnam, Mr. Komonn said.
“The beggars had learned from some countries, especially Thailand, by using minors to beg and there are people who wait behind to receive the benefits,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said Ms. Channy was provisionally charged on Tuesday with unlawful recruitment for exploitation, which carries a prison sentence of between 15 and 20 years.