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UNICEF Cambodia

Researcher & Writer

Lisa Nicol Woods

SOUND THE ALARM: Reporting Violence Against Children In Cambodia


Focus group discussions  8
Key informant interviews  8
Literature review of existing research  8
Poverty  10
Gender  10
Gang rape  11
Gang and youth violence  11
Alcoholism  11
Legal Framework for Domestic Violence  13
Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims (2005)  13
Labour Law (1997)  15
Anti-trafficking policy framework  16
Policy on Alternative Care for Children (2006)  17
Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children  17


ADHOC Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association

AHTJP Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection
BCC Behaviour Change Communication
Cambodia or RGC The Royal Government of Cambodia
CCPCR Cambodian Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights
CCWC Commune Council for Women and Children
CDHS Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey
CDW Child Domestic Worker
CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
CHI Child Helpline International
CNCC Cambodian National Council for Children
CRC Convention on the Rights of the Child
CWCC Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre
DoSVY Provincial Office of Social Affairs
EIC Education, Information, and Communication
EIU Economic Intelligence Unit
FGD Focus Group Discussion
ILO International Labour Organization
INGO International Non-governmental Organisation
IOM International Organization for Migration
IPEC International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour
LAC Legal Aid of Cambodia
LEASETC Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children
LICADHO Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
LSBE Life-Skills Based Education
MMR Maternal Mortality Ratio
MoEYS Ministry of Education Youth and Sports
MoH Ministry of Health
MoI Ministry of Interior
MoJ Ministry of Justice
MLVT Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training
MoSVY Ministry of Social Affairs, Vocational Training and Youth Rehabilitation
MoU Memorandum of Understanding
MoWA Ministry of Women’s Affairs
NGO Non-Governmental Organisation
OHCHR Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
OSVY District Office of Social Affairs
OVC Orphans and Vulnerable Children
PLAU Provincial Local Administration Unit

POLA Provincial Offices of Local Administration
RAO Rural Aid Organization
REDA Rural Economic Development Association
SLO School Liaison Counsellor
The Committee The Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Convention or CRC The Convention on the Rights of the Child
TSEC Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in Cambodia
UN The United Nations
UNCT The United Nations Country Team
UNDAF The United Nations Development Assistance Framework
UNHCR The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
UNIAP The United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the
Greater Mekong Sub-region
UNICEF The United Nations Children's Fund
UNSG The United Nations Secretary General
UNTAC The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
WHO The World Health Organization
WCFP Women and Children Focal Point
WVC World Vision Cambodia

The fundamental reason for mapping mechanisms to report violence against children in Cambodia is to
identify what methods people use to report child abuse; why such methods are chosen; and to gain an
understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the identified official and non-official mechanisms. From
literature and field research we were able to formulate recommendations for stakeholders in child protection to
consider for the implementation of a holistic mechanism to report violence against children. The key
challenges of the recommendations include the need for the State to spend more to enhance social service
services and delivery; a larger budget to provide education to the child, young adult, and adult population of
society to reduce violence against children and to build effective response mechanisms; and the dedication of
resources to uphold national and international commitments to protect children and women from violence.
Such efforts will require the mobilisation of the State, NGO, UN, and civil society to from a sustainable
partnership to establish and maintain a confidential, safe, and child-friendly mechanism that is available to all
children across the nation.
Though Cambodia is a developing country with a large child population living in extreme or moderate poverty,
the Government is expected to increase its spending by 15 per cent in 2008. In late October it was reported
that the government had approved a draft budget bill, which included total spending of US $1.25 billion – a 15
per cent year-on year increase. Details of the budget are limited but increased allocations for health,
education and social affairs are included for 2008. Therein lay an opportunity for the Ministries in charge of
the social welfare of children, Commune Councils, UN agencies and NGOs to appeal for increased spending
in the social sectors. Without increased Sate spending, gaps in the social sector such as coverage of social
workers, the number of doctors per 100,000 people, and the low salaries of civil servants which correlates
with low motivation, absenteeism and little incentive to report child abuse cannot be adequately addressed.

Results found that establishing a comprehensive reporting mechanism will require the training of para-
professionals (for example many social workers have medical training but no social work background) and
those already in the position to report child abuse such as teachers and healthcare workers. The challenge in
building the capacity of social service providers is that the adult literacy rate was about 73.6 per cent in 2004
(UNDP), up only from 62 per cent in 1990. The literacy rate for women was only 64.1 per cent in 2004
compared with 87.4 per cent for men. The primary enrolment rate has picked up, rising to 98 per cent in 2003
from only 69 per cent in1991, but the secondary rate stood at only 26 per cent in 2004. But the eradication of
poverty and the establishment of a good public welfare system are at jeopardy as tertiary education is limited
and has resulted in a shortage of skilled labour. For example, the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) reports
that about 50 per cent of the population has no access to public healthcare. There has been a sharp decline in
the number of doctors and nurses per head since the mid-1960s. Public health expenditure was estimated at
2.1 per cent of GDP in 2003, according to UNDP, amongst the lowest percentage of countries reporting data.
The private sector has sought to fill the gap and private healthcare expenditure was estimated at 8.8 per cent
of GDP in 2003. One recommendation of this study is to involve health workers in the local and national level
reporting mechanisms, training them to recognise violence against children, teaching them how to make
referrals and to write reports that prosecutors can rely on as evidence. However, the health sector will not
have the capacity needed to participate in child protection if the State does not place more priority on
healthcare spending.

Increased spending on healthcare in countries such as Malaysia has decreased the maternal mortality ratio
(MMR) significantly – which increases child survival and protection. Malaysia started this focus when there
were only seven hospitals in the country; and its MMR decreased before its GDP increased through a phased
intervention that included improved health care, nutrition, and water and sanitation; increased access to
skilled birth attendants and improved community-based care; and institutional care. While this issue is not
specific to reporting violence against children per se, the example of Malaysia prioritising an area in the social
services sector for greater budget allocations before it had a healthy GDP is relevant to Cambodia’s current
economic situation and spending on public services.

Sachs, Jeffrey, The End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our lifetime. Penguin Books, New York, 2005, p. 20. *Extreme
poverty means that households cannot meet their basic needs for survival; Moderate poverty generally refers to conditions of life in which
basic needs are met, but just barely.
Economic Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Cambodia, London, 2007, p.4.
Ibid., p.4.
Walters, WAW, Ford, JB, et al. (2002 May 6). ‘Maternal Deaths in Australia,’ The Medical Journal of Australia, 176(9) 413-414, as cited
in UNICEF, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Health, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p. 9.

While implementing a holistic reporting mechanism will require extensive financing Cambodia does not have
to build such a system alone. "Despite ongoing concerns over the government’s failure to make solid progress
in tackling corruption, donors remain generally content with its policy performance … [its] new five-year
development plan the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) and its corresponding plans setting out
priority government expenditure through the Public Investment Programme.” The economics of implementing
a holistic reporting mechanism should be easier each year as the nominal GDP is forecasted to grow to 9 .7
per cent in 2008; and to 10.8 per cent in 2009. Therefore, a real opportunity exists for Cambodia to use its
budget as a child rights instrument. This focus can extend to supplying the resources to implement and clarify
existing reporting mechanisms, providing training to social service providers, and issuing guidelines to the
relevant ministries to ensure a reporting process that holds someone accountable for reports of violence
against children and the required follow-up. Cambodia can collaborate with UN agencies and civil society to
implement the time-bound approach to eradicating violence against children as outlined in the UNSG World
Report on Violence against Children (2006).

Timeline Recommended State-led Action Item

2007 Integrate national planning process measures to prevent and respond to violence against
children, including the identification of a focal point, preferably at ministerial level.
2009 Prohibit all violence against children by law.
2009 Initiate a process to develop reliable national data collection systems.

Ibid. p. 24.


The key message of this study is that an official and multi-disciplinary reporting and response mechanism that
is child friendly, confidential, and widely accessible is necessary to create a protective environment for all
Cambodian children. No one can accomplish this task alone. The proportion of children compared to the
available resources makes such a feat mathematically impossible; however, when agencies collaborate the
inconceivable can happen. The UNSG World Report (2006) showed that children have suffered violence at
the hands of adults unseen and unheard for centuries. Now that the scale and impact of violence against
children is becoming visible, they cannot be kept waiting any longer for the effective protection to which they
have an unqualified right. The key words are unseen and unheard: With reliable ways for children and adults
to report violence against children the voice of children – often shushed will be heard loud and clear.
Children’s right to be protected from violence is enshrined in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child (The Convention). The first section deals with the State’s obligation to protect children from all forms of
abuse, while the second addresses the right of children and adults to report and seek help for all forms of
physical, psychological, and sexual violence.

This study looks at violence in the settings in which children experience it and the ways children and adults
use to report and respond to such phenomenon. This is not an empirical study attempting to gauge the full
scale of violence against children and women because we know from anecdotal evidence and prior research,
that violence against children is endemic on a national and global scale. Stakeholders know this but
researchers are hard-pressed to prove it because official reporting mechanisms are non-functioning, non-
existent, and/or unreliable. The State confirmed this perspective as Cambodia developed a draft national
report to feed into the UNSG World Report, in which Cambodia officials state that no official complaint or
reporting procedures exist in the country to report violence against children in the home, school, institutions,
workplace, or community (e.g. the street).

Over a three-week time span UNICEF Cambodia visited Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces, and the capital
city of Phnom Penh to consult with provincial, district, and local officials, UNICEF staff, non-governmental
organisation (NGO) staff, children and young people, and teachers and villagers to ascertain how violence
against children is reported, the perceived response to official and non-official mechanism, gaps in the system
and recommendations for improvement. In some rural areas, local officials said that the lack of infrastructure
hindered reporting violence against children as villagers had no phone or radio, and had to depend on good
weather in order to travel the dirt roads and make a verbal or written report to the commune chief/police. In
other areas the prevailing societal norm that family business is private and that children need physical
punishment to grow into responsible adults often overshadowed national domestic violence laws and The

This study will further examine the capacity, coverage, and mandate of the official systems of Cambodia. The
conclusions and recommendations consider the lingering devastation of the Khmer Rouge and widespread
poverty, which are factors that shape the attitudes of many Khmers toward the appropriateness of violence
and the general lack of social cohesion. At the end of each section are recommendations for the State, NGOs,
UN agencies, parliamentarians, and other stakeholders of child protection to consider.

Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p. 61.


A key recommendation of the UNSG World Report is for States to establish safe, well-publicised, confidential
and accessible mechanisms for children, their representatives and others to report violence against children.
Effective mechanisms not only serve as an intervention tool, it makes violence against children visible and
aids in the collection of national statistics. “Such data are needed to inform and guide child protection
policies.” Data collection for the UNICEF Cambodia study included a combination of research tools. The
results were triangulated and compared to complete the final analysis. The limitations of this study included
timing and time: Since school was no longer in session it was difficult to access school children and teachers.
Likewise since it was harvesting period many children and adults were working in the field. As a result the
focus group discussions (FGDs) were not large; however, the children and adults who attended FGDs and
gave interviews added rich colour to the research and meaningfully participated. Though time and timing
limited the scope of the study, the employment of various research tools added to the breadth and depth of
information obtained, and enabled the research to confirm the State’s assertion that no official mechanisms to
report violence against children exist; and to identify the agency children and adults substituted an official
response with, and to uncover the potential to build upon existing initiatives and laws, and advocate for new

Focus group discussions

Focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with provincial, district, and local-level authorities, school-
aged children (some out of school), students, teachers and staff of NGO centres to examine the knowledge,
attitudes, practices and experiences regarding violence against children and reporting mechanisms. The
framework of questions probed barriers to reporting violence in addition to delving into the behaviours and
attitudes that could be promoted as best practices. The FGDs allowed the children to identify issues of
importance to them, express and analyse the issues of violence against children, reinforce the right that
children have to report violence at home and in the community, and allowed them to participate in making
recommendations to improve the reporting system and make it more child friendly.

Key informant interviews

The key informant interview is a standard anthropometric method used in social development inquiry to get
detailed information from experts such as doctors, teachers, officials and NGO staff. The questions sought
qualitative information that was used for narration, and accessed the quantitative data that professionals were
privy to as a result of their position.

Literature review of existing research  

UNICEF Cambodia conducted desk review of the relevant literature, legislation and official reporting
mechanisms vis-à-vis violence against children. Relevant perspectives, statistics, and recommendations were
included from the following publications to inform research tools and methodologies:

The World Report on Violence Against Children, UNSG

The UNSG World Report (2006) report is based on the in-depth study of Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, an
independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 57/90 of
2002. The World Report provides a global picture of violence against children and proposes recommendations
to prevent and respond to this issue. It provides detailed background information on the types of violence
against children within the family, schools, alternative care institutions and detention facilities, the streets, and
formal and informal places of employment, and pulls from consultations with officials, civil society, UN
agencies, children, and adults from all over the world. The key recommendation in the UNSG World Report
that is most relevant to the UNICEF Cambodia mapping study is for States to “establish safe, well-publicised,
confidential and accessible mechanisms for children, their representatives and others to report violence
against children.”

Ibid, p.4.
Sarajevo Inter-governmental Conferences. (13-15 May 2004).Violence Against Children: Making Europe and Central Asia fit for
Children, 2007, p. 6.
United Nations General Assembly: Sixty-first Session Item 62 (a) of the Provisional Agenda. (29 August 2006). Promotion and
Protection of the Rights of Children, Rights of the Child: Note by the Secretary-General.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p. 4.

Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF
The Handbook provides a detailed reference for the implementation of law, policy and practice to promote and
protect the rights of children. Article 19 of The Convention is discussed at length and includes ways for States
and stakeholders to respond to reports of violence against children. Excerpts from reports from the
Committee on the Rights of the Child (The Committee), is quoted throughout; however, the Committee
advises States that a holistic reporting mechanism has several components including: Identification, reporting,
referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up, judicial intervention (as appropriate), and special training for
professionals who work with children.

Stop Violence Against Us! Summary Report I and II, Tearfund (Cambodia)
Summary Report I focussed on three aspects of the problem of violence against children - sexual abuse,
domestic violence against children and corporal punishment. Summary Report II sought information on child
trafficking, bullying, and gang violence. Both reports convey children's perceptions on violence and explore
their ideas on how violence can be addressed to meet the needs of children. Through FGDs and
questionnaires, the studies examined these issues with more than 1,300 Cambodian children from 12- to 15-

Street Children Profile, Friends International - Mith Samlanh

This basic study analysed the ongoing challenges of children living and working on the streets in Phnom
Penh. The profile includes information on the backgrounds of 1,001 such children who attend the Transitional
Home, the Educational and Vocational Training Centres at Mith Samlanh, and those affected by HIV/AIDS
who receive material support.


Wars and a genocidal regime have eroded Cambodia’s social infrastructure, morale, solidarity and some
cultural traditions. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge held power for almost four years during which an estimated 2
million people died from starvation, torture, or execution. The loss of family ties; and the deprivation of rights,
dignity and honour have been in the heart of the Cambodian population for a full generation. Due to this
troubled history many of today’s parents did not have the experience or example of positive parenthood.
Instead war and public violence was a grim reality that faced them on a daily basis. As a result, a whole
generation of Cambodians is missing parenting skills and models for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) notes that “a strong
relationship between violent conflict in society and violence in the home. [For example,] after three decades of
war, violence is an accepted end to a conflict in most of Cambodia.”

Poverty is acutely evident in all settings in Cambodia but poverty itself is not the issue rather the symptom of
unchecked government corruption, a lack of decent-paying jobs, disparities, insufficient governmental
spending in the social services sector, and endemic child labour which squanders the nation’s human capital
and conflicts with the goal of eradicating extreme poverty. There is a consensus that from 35 per cent to 40
per cent of the population lives below the income poverty line, while from 15 per cent to 20 per cent lives in
extreme poverty, particularly in rural areas.

Poverty heightens gender as a vulnerability to violence. Boys and girls have different risks to violence, though
girls tend to face sexual violence at higher rates though often underreported. One example is that of child
domestic work (CDW) in which girls are more likely to make up the bulk of the workforce and are subject to
slavery-like conditions. According to the National Institute of Statistics, Child Domestic Worker Survey Phnom
Penh (2003), only 5,900 children from 7- to 17- years-old are “domestic and related helpers, cleaners and
launderers” (ISCO-88 Occupation No. 913); yet a separate dedicated study indicated that there were some
28,000 child domestic workers in Phnom Penh alone.” More than 50 per cent of all CDWs, “and 70 per cent
of female CDWs, must work seven days per week; 60 per cent do not get even an hour of rest during the
working day; 75 per cent receive no monthly cash salary; most must live in the house of their employer, away
from their parents and siblings; and endure abusive treatment, in the form of being slapped with bare hands,
beaten with objects or abused with harsh/vulgar words. Forty per cent of CDWs percent are out of school, and
for those in school, limited free time and tiredness from their work make it difficult for them to keep up with
other children or to do their homework.”

Sexual assault
Sexual violence also has gender dimensions: Both girls and boys are susceptible to molestation or rape but
many Cambodians don’t believe that boys can be raped. Thus the already limited child rape reporting and
response mechanisms are woefully inadequate to address boys’ psychosocial and physical in the aftermath of
a sexual assault. Survey results revealed in Stop Violence Against Us, Summary Report I, that out of 508
girls, 13.3 per cent admitted to being sexually touched on the genitals before reaching the age of nine-years
old; while out of 462 boys, 15.7 per cent said they had been molested in this way too. Though the study
didn’t reveal where the molestation took place, a lot of sexual violence is inflicted by family members or other
people residing in or visiting a child’s family home – people normally trusted by children and often responsible
for their care. “Most children do not report sexual violence they experience at home because they are afraid of

Pact Cambodia, Community Councils & Civil Society, Phnom Penh, 2004, p.8.
ILO/UNICEF/World Bank, Inter-Agency Report to the Royal Government of Cambodia: Understanding children’s work: A challenge for
growth and poverty reduction, Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 20.
ILO/UNICEF/World Bank, Inter-Agency Report to the Royal Government of Cambodia: Understanding children’s work: A challenge for
growth and poverty reduction, Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 30.
Interview, Helen Sworn, Chab Dai (Joining Hands) Coalition, 25 October, Phnom Penh 2007.
Miles, G., Stop Violence against Us! Summary Report II, Tearfund (Cambodia) Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 26.

what will happen to them and their families, that their families will be ashamed or reject them, or that they will
not be believed.”

Child rape
Child rape is more prevalent than reported due to the stigma and shame attached to the violent act, and the
consequences that often follow such as inability to marry, unwanted pregnancy, or the belief that the child has
an STI such as HIV. For the first half of 2007, out of the 165 rapes reported, 53 girls were younger than 15-
years-old, 10 girls were from 15- to 17-years old, and 41 girls were 18-year-olds. The remaining 56 cases
were women. Out of the 165 cases reported, the police unit of the Ministry of Interior successfully investigated
104. Similarly, the highest number of “indecent assault cases” took place amongst girls younger than 15-
years-old (four out of 10), two indecent assault cases were reported amongst girls from 15- to 17-years-old;
and no cases were reported amongst 18-year-olds. Out of 10 total reported indecent assault cases, 80 per
cent were child victims. As such, the police successfully investigated 60 per cent of indecent assault cases.

Gang rape
According to a study conducted by the Population Council (2004), gang rape is a growing phenomenon in
many places, including Cambodia. In consultations with participant Cambodian young men, some considered
it acceptable to gang rape (bauk) girls or women perceived as promiscuous, sexually available, or known
prostitutes. “I have never experienced bauk with a good girl,’ said one young male participant. According to
a Tearfund quantitative study of 580 young people from 13-to 28-years-old in 24 districts across Phnom Penh,
34 per cent of boys and 14.5 per cent of girls at the participant school said they knew others involved in bauk.
Only 13 per cent recognised bauk as rape or immoral because “The woman had 'consented' to having sex
and was a prostitute.” In Cambodia, for example, young men said “That they participated in gang rape
‘because we need sex and want to have fun together.’ Some reported that although they knew that gang rape
was unacceptable, they were forced by their friends to participate.”

Gang and youth violence

Extensive research on gang violence in Cambodia has not been undertaken although the presence of youth
gangs is becoming an issue to village and commune chiefs. One second deputy commune chief said two boys
fought to the death in a village in his commune. Children reported the real and present danger of gang and
youth violence in the Cambodia National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (2004) in which 2.5 per cent said that
someone had threatened them with a weapon during the past year; and 8 per cent said they carried a knife,
stick, club or other weapon within the past 30 days. This percentage contrasted with out-of-school children of
which 11 per cent had been threatened with a weapon, and five per cent admitted to carrying a weapon. A
popular notion is that gang violence is isolated amongst the children living in poverty or on the streets but
“…in fact the children of officials are cited as causing trouble in some areas.”

In FGDs and interviews for this study, police officers, local authorities, and children cited that the male head of
the household was often drunk when domestic violence against children or women took place. In the Violence
against Women Baseline Report Cambodia (2005), “[men] who drank alcohol twice a week were more likely to
say they had acted violently than respondents who drank less often or never drank. In the Cambodia
Demographic Health Survey (2005), 88 per cent of the women surveyed who reported that their husbands did
not get drunk did not experience any [domestic] violence, compared to the 48 per cent of women whose
husbands drink frequently.” One village chief said he had two serious cases of domestic violence that were
aggravated by alcoholism: One drunken man smashed a piece of wood on his wife’s head and blood poured
out. The neighbour told the village chief, who reported to the commune police, and the man was arrested and
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, pp. 54-55.
Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, Ministry of Interior. Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children Project,
Statistics for 2007: Six months, Phnom Penh, 2007.
Wilkinson, Bearup, & Soprach. (2003, September 22-25). Presentation from Non-consensual Sexual Experiences of Young People in
Developing Countries: A Consultative Meeting, as cited in ‘Sexual Coercion: Young Men’s Experiences As Victims And Perpetrators,’
Population Council, WHO, Youthnet, New Delhi, 2004, p. 3.
Miles, Glenn, Stop Violence against Us! Summary Report II, Tearfund (Cambodia) Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 32.
Ajuwon, Wilkinson, Bearup, & Soprach. (2003, September 22-25). Presentation from Non-consensual Sexual Experiences of Young
People in Developing Countries: A Consultative Meeting, as cited in ‘Sexual Coercion: Young Men’s Experiences as Victims and
Perpetrators,’ Population Council, WHO, Youthnet, New Delhi, 2004, p. 3.
FGD, Check Commune, Commune Council, 2007 September 27.
Miles, Glenn, Stop Violence against Us! Summary Report II, Tearfund, Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 32.
Pact Cambodia, Community Councils & Civil Society, Phnom Penh, 2004, p.16.
National Institute of Public Health and National Institute of Statistics, Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey 2005, Phnom Penh,
2006, p.295.

sent to prison. The second case occurred when a drunken man tried to set his house on fire. Someone saw
him and stopped it before he could light the fire. Alcohol also puts children at greater risk to violence as it
does women. One village chief said that some parents get very drunk and beat their children for no reason. At
another commune a child reported that her two friends where chased around the house by their drunken
father with a knife. They hid under a table until he passed out then the boy ran to the village chief for help.

FGD, Village and Deputy Village Chiefs, Braseth Commune, 3 October 2007.
FGD, Children, Braseth Commune, 3 October 2007.


After the fall of the Khmer Rouge and the end of decades of armed conflict, the United Nations Transitional
Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) guided the country in the formation of its legal framework. The Constitution
was passed and human rights initiatives such as the ratification of The Convention took place shortly after.
The legal framework of Cambodia is complex because the country is still in transition and the hierarchy of the
main legal norms range from the Constitution, laws, and prakas, to legislation more limited in scope such as
sub-decrees and circulars. Cambodia has passed some national legislation that creates an enabling
environment for child protection; however, many of these laws have obscure and underutilised mechanisms to
report violence against children and the lack of financial and human resources to implement the full scale of
reporting. This section looks at the national framework for child protection and reporting violence against
children; the gaps in implementation, the potential for scaling up existing mechanisms, and the necessity to
pass new legislation and/or polices to ensure that children and citizens have a way to report violence and that
there is a process in place to receive and respond to such reports.

Legal Framework for Domestic Violence

The following provisions included in the Constitution lays a foundation for protecting women and children from
domestic violence:

• The right to life, personal freedom and security (Article 32).

• The law shall guarantee there shall be no physical abuse against any individual (Article 38).
• The right to equality of men and women before the law (Article 31).
• Protection from discrimination based on gender (Article 45).
• Protection of the rights of children (Article 48).
• The health of the people shall be guaranteed (Article 72).

Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims (2005)
Although domestic violence is addressed in the Constitution, the 2005 domestic violence law was passed to
strength the culture of non-violence and identifies Cambodians protected under the law (husband, wife,
children, and any dependent under the same roof), and the actions considered violent such as “Acts affecting
life; acts affecting physical integrity; tortures or cruel acts; and sexual aggression.”

Reporting procedures
Reporting of domestic violence can take place in several ways according to the domestic violence law:
• If officials intervene they are required to make a clear record about the incident and report it
immediately to the prosecutors in charge.
• If officials who have already earned the legal qualification as the judiciary police are absent – the local
police, police agents, Royal Gendarmerie, local authorities in commune/sangkat, officials of the
Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) as well as village chiefs who have intervened can make a record
to the court. The record has also the same value as the record made by judiciary police officials.
• Authorities who have the role to serve the interests and protect the welfare of the children have an
obligation to report domestic violence against children according to the following process:
o In severe cases, the authorities in charge shall file the case to the court. Any responsible
person assigned by the court including the prosecutors shall take charge of doing the follow
up of the situation of the children and make a report about this situation to the court.

Gaps in implementation
The law focuses on punitive measure which could deter some women and children from reporting violence,
particularly if the perpetrator is the sole income of the household. It also does not include rehabilitation
measures such as anger management, alcohol rehabilitation, marital and family counselling, and other
measures that should be tried first before the judicial system becomes involved. This is a serious barrier to
reporting violence as most women don’t want to see their husbands in jail and children don’t want to lose their
father – even if there is violence in the home. In numerous FGDs village and commune authorities reported

UNTAC: Operational from 1992 to 1993.
Article 3.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims, passed by the
National Assembly on 16 September 2005, approved by the Senate in its total form and objective on 29 September 2005, Article 11,
Phnom Penh, 2005, September 16.

that even in serious cases of violence women asked that their husbands not be prosecuted and the authorities

Ways for children and women to report domestic violence is not spelled out in this law, nor has the law’s
definition of violence and scope been communicated to all stakeholders, according to some key informants
interviewed for this mapping study. One 14-year-old boy said that even though people know about the
domestic violence law, children don’t report because they cannot get help, and if the children tell they will get
punished worst. A village chief concurred: The children don’t understand that the hitting is violence and they
are afraid that they will get more punishment if they report to the Village Chief and the Village Chief goes to
the house. But they always speak to their peers. Other children said they do not report violence because a
lack of confidence in the system: Another 14-year-old boy said that his friend has never reported violence but
if he were to report it, he would report to an organisation that works with children because the organisation
can really help the children and not the village authorities.

According to the LICADHO Report on Violence against Women (2006), the domestic violence law has not
been widely implemented in Cambodia. The group attributes the lack of enforcement to “engrained attitudes”
amongst members of the authorities that domestic violence is a private matter that should not be interfered
with by the public. Furthermore, the law does not define “authorities in charge.” In reality the important task of
responding to complaints of domestic violence is left to an undefined “authority.” Therefore, reporting and
responding to domestic violence is murkily defined and victims sometimes are not sure where to report
violence or to whom to report. The Government need only provide clarification in a sub-decree of the definition
of the nearest authorities and authorities in charge that can intervene during domestic violence situations. A
sub-decree is currently being drafted, however to date the text of the sub-decree has not been made public.

Law on Marriage and Family (1989)

The relationship between the child, his or her parents and the State are outlined in Article 1 of the Law on
Marriage and Family. Reporting child abuse is facilitated under Article 120 which says that the People’s Court
can revoke parental authority if a “State organisation, the mass organisation, the authorities attached to the
people's court or any relatives of the parents” commits a fault. A fault is described in Article 119 as violating a
child’s rights, or otherwise abusing him or her. “Parental power shall be revoked and transferred to any
organisation or relative by blood, from parent who is at fault as follows: the parents fail to educate their child;
the parents use improper power in violation of the child rights or forcing him to commit crimes or acts against
society; the parents treat badly their children; or the parents behave against the moral standards which have a
bad influence over their children.”

Gaps in implementation
The reality is that the one reporting mechanism of this law is never enforced. Parents commit “faults” by
pushing or allowing their children to skip school and work. This is evident by looking in the rice fields or on the
streets during the middle of the day, and seeing children engaging in labour instead of going to school. One
Village Chief said he always advises parents that if they allow their children to go to school, that they will be
able to take care of the parents better when they are older; but this doesn’t always work. In other FGDs
children and village chiefs said that parents sometimes force their children to quit school to work; and the local
authorities only counsel the parent; they do not refer the case to the relevant agency for extreme measures
such as revocation of parental status. Therefore, the reporting (intervention) mechanism in this law is unused
and in essence is not in the spirit of the Convention which is to keep families together and stop any violence
against children. “While all reports of violence against children should be appropriately investigated and their
protection from significant harm assured, the aim should be to stop parents using violent or other cruel or
degrading punishments through supportive and educational, not punitive, interventions.”

Draft Education Law (2007)

FGD, Children, Kandeung Ray Village, 25 September 2007.
FGD, Village Chief, Braseth Commune, 3 October 2007.
FGD, Children, Check Commune, 28 September 2007.
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, A LICADHO Report: Violence against Women in Cambodia,
LICADHO, Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 7.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Law on Marriage and Family, Article(s) 119 and 120, Phnom Penh, 1989.
Braseth Commune, 3 October 2007.
Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 8. The Right of the Child to Protection from Corporal Punishment and
Other Cruel or Degrading Forms of Punishment (Articles 19, 28(2) and 37, inter alia), CRC/C/GC/8, 2006.

The draft Education Law incorporates many child-friendly school (CFS) characteristics including expressly
forbidding a teacher’s use of corporal punishment. The objectives of the law, as stated in Article 1, are to
determine the national measures and criteria for building the completely comprehensive and standardised
education system ensuring the principles of freedoms of studies and equity in education as enshrined in the
Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Charter of the United Nations. In Article 35 one of the rights
of learners is to be “Respected and paid attention to human rights, especially the right to dignity, the right to
be free from any form of torture or from physical and mental punishment.”

This provision is in line with The Committee’s declaration in addressing children’s discipline in schools,
“Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates. Education must also be
provided in a way that respects the strict limits on discipline reflected in Article 28(2) and promotes
nonviolence in school.…” Both children and parents can complain if the child’s rights are violated. “Parents
or guardians, learners and educational personnel, whose rights specified in this law, are violated, have the
right to request or complain to the competent educational authority at different levels as well as to the

Gaps in implementation
A specific reporting mechanism has not been established as the draft law states that “The Ministry in
charge of Education shall issue regulations on procedures for requests, complaints and solutions.” The
regulation should be issued soon so that children have ways to report violence at school. A school-based
reporting mechanism that allows children to confidently report both school-based violence and domestic would
be ideal. For example, one education focal point of a CCWC said that teachers talk to him if children are being
abused at home. In other cases if the child doesn’t come to school for a long time and the teacher goes to the
house for an investigation, the teacher finds out that violence is occurring at the home. This CCWC member
said that most teachers don’t mind responding to violence that occurs at home or school but need more
training and support to do so.

Labour Law (1997) 

Although the Ministry of Labour & Vocational Training (MoLVT) has oversight over all labour in the country,
the legislation to monitor and enforce labour codes are limited or non-functioning in most sectors in which
children work. For example, Article 178 provides that a “labour inspector [from the MoLVT’s Department of
Labour] can request a physician, who is in public service, to examine children less than 18 years of age
employed in an enterprise in order to establish that their jobs are not beyond their physical capabilities. If this
is the case, the Labour Inspector is empowered to demand that their job be changed or that they be let out of
the establishment upon the advice or examination of the physician, if their parents so protest.”

Gaps in implementation
According to a U.S. Department of State Report on human rights practices and labour, a lack of staffing,
operational, and logistical capacities plague the Department of Labour Inspection. “There is also a lack of
understanding and awareness on laws and systems of enforcement among inspectors. Sanctions for violators
of legal provisions relating to child labour are unclear, and no employer has to date been brought to court for
violating current child labour laws.” Cambodia has made a number of important legal commitments in the
area of child labour but essential ambiguities and gaps in legislation relating to child labour, and the ability to
children to report violence in the workplace remain.

Of particular concern, the Cambodia Labour Law has not been extended to informal sector enterprises or
settings, where the overwhelming majority of child labourers are concentrated. This means family-based
agriculture and domestic service are not covered by legislation. The Law also does not specifically define
what constitutes child labour in terms of type of work, conditions of work, or work hazards. The labour law
does not provide a way for children to file complaints against employers or fellow employees in cases of
abuse, therefore, child workers may accept violence on the job as the norm or fail to report it in fear of losing
their jobs. The enforcement of child labour laws is another major challenge facing the government, and the

Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment No. 15: The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other
cruel or degrading forms of punishment, CRC/C/GC/15.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Draft Education Law, Article 40, Phnom Penh, 2007.
Sombur Commune, 26 September 2007.
ILO/UNICEF/World Bank, Inter-Agency Report to the Royal Government of Cambodia: Understanding children’s work: A challenge for
growth and poverty reduction, Phnom Penh, 2006, p. 46.

government by its own admission currently does not have the capacity to properly enforce and monitor laws
relating to child labour.

Anti-trafficking policy framework

In Cambodia, rural children and young women seek better economic opportunities within Cambodia and in
neighbouring countries. While some victims– both male and female –are sold to, or forced to go with,
traffickers by relatives or friends for sexual and labour exploitation, most trafficking occurs during the course of
voluntary but un-prepared migration. Using coercion, deception (like the promise of a job), and sometimes
violence or the threat of violence, the trafficker diverts the young (often female) migrant into prostitution,
forced labour and other slave-like conditions, including domestic servitude. Trafficking is increasingly
recognised as a serious problem facing Cambodia today. Child victims (boys and girls) in most cases end up
in the various worst forms of sexual and labour exploitation.

The draft Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation (2007) specifies that a minor is a
child younger than 18. The law carries greater penalties for trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation of
minors, and child pornography. In Article 8 of the MoU on Cooperation in Eliminating Trafficking in Children
and Women and Assisting Victims of Trafficking (2003), child and women victims have rights to the
investigation and judicial intervention components of reporting violence and “have access to the due process
of law to claim for criminal justice, recovery of damages, and any other judicial remedies.” The State has
made a commitment to progressively eliminate all forms of child labour and immediately ending its worst

The National Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals aim to reduce
the proportion of child labour to 8 per cent by 2015. Schooling is seen as one of the best tools to combat child
labour and school enrolment is on the rise, with the National Plan of Action on Education seeking to put all
children from 6- to 14- years old in schools by 2010. The Education for All initiative commits to enrolling all
children by 2015. The State has drafted a National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of
Child Labour. The plan adopts a holistic approach that targets specific areas and sectors of child labour for
immediate elimination and links it to the country’s SEILA programme, which is designed to build up capacities
of local government and development agencies. It draws on partnerships with other donors, agencies and the
private sector.

Gaps in implementation
The anti-trafficking law has no reporting provisions except for the concealment of the victim’s identity in the
media. This law could be strengthened with a reporting function such as requiring local government and the
public to report the presence of suspected and known traffickers in the village. A village chief from Cheong
Phom Commune said that if the authorities suspect that a stranger in the village is a trafficker, under
collaboration with the villagers they will investigate within the village and with nearby villagers to confirm their
suspicions. If they are certain that the person is a trafficker, someone in the village will immediately inform the
police and neighbouring villages. However this is a voluntary effort – under the new law no one has the
mandate to alert the authorities of traffickers in the village or commune.

Ibid., p.6.
Cambodia's Keynote: The 3rd Session of the Sub-Regional Advisory Committee (SURAC) of the Mekong Project to Combat Trafficking
in Children and Women, 8-9 September 2005, Bangkok, Thailand, Oum Mean, Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour and
Vocational Training, Deputy Chairperson, National Sub-Committee on Child Labour, p.1.
Ibid, Article 7.
Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Government of the Kingdom of
Cambodia on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women and Assisting Victims of Trafficking, Article 8 (e),
Phnom Penh, 2003.
The Royal Government of Cambodia/Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training/ILO-IPEC, Phnom Penh, 2005, p.3.
Ibid, Article 49.
Cheong Phom Commune, 1 October 2007.

Best Practices on preventing and reporting child trafficking used in Sri Lanka and India tsunami

1. In Sri Lanka, an estimated 5,000 children lost one or both parents. UNICEF partnered with the
National Child Protection Authority The strategic communication programme included several
components but the reporting aspects included: Procedures for reporting unaccompanied and
separated children; the need to avoid institutionalisation of unaccompanied children; the importance
of following national laws and procedures when handing over children to caregivers.
2. In the India tsunami shelters, UNICEF supported the printing and distribution of more than 5,000
booklets and posters, 1,000 banners on trafficking awareness. The materials had phone numbers of a
helpline and helped to report child trafficking cases quickly.

Source: UNICEF, Behaviour Change Communication in Emergencies, UNICEF ROSA, Kathmandu, 2006,
pp. 146-147.

Policy on Alternative Care for Children (2006)

The Policy on Alternative Care for Children describes the different forms of alternative care for children
without primary caregivers, including residential care, community and family based care, adoption, group
homes, and individual living arrangements. The policy also discusses the principles of alternative care, in
particular the best interests of the child, non-discrimination, participation of children and the right to protection,
development and protection. A hierarchy of options is described to safeguard the best interest of the child:
family solutions are preferred above institutional solutions; permanent solutions such as return to the birth
family, are preferred over provisional solutions and national solutions over international solutions. Placement
of the child in institutional care is considered an option of last resort. As far as mechanisms to report violence,
the following provisions are stipulated: First, institutions are to “formalise, establish and monitor standards
based on the [alternative care] policy framework.” Second, “the development of community based supervision
and protection mechanisms for children in [alternative care situations] taking into account the royal
government’s decentralised structures and responsibilities.” However, research done by UNICEF Cambodia
and other organisations found that the reporting mechanisms have yet to be fully implemented, and that there
is no one person overseeing its implementation.

Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children

The Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children outline management, monitoring and
reporting guidelines for centres. Article 5 requires that the district/commune authorities are informed
immediately if a child is abducted, is missing, or is deceased. Collaboration with DoSVY (the Provincial Office
of Social Affairs) must take place at the same time so a concerted effort can be made to find the child. Article
7 deals with complaints and legal protection of the child while in residential care and requires that
management and staff of the facility ensure that children are informed of their rights and procedures to make
a complaint; and that an incident management plan for handling any allegations or suspicions of misconduct
toward children is established by the facility; that the Case Management Officer ensure that the children are
protected from harm when filing a complaint or taking legal action.

Gaps in implementation
In reality the prescribed monitoring and reporting process does not happen in residential care institutions.
Recent UNICEF studies show that 91 per cent of alternative care institutions have no written principles on
complaints procedures (which should include reporting mechanisms) in place. This is an ever-present
situation in most social service provider situations due to the limited funding for staff and other professionals
needed to support children living in community-based care and the inability of civil society to fill this gap.

The Royal Government of Cambodia/The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Prakas on the Promulgation of
Policy on Alternative Care for Children, Phnom Penh, 2006.
Written correspondence with Harknett, Steven, Social Policy Advisor, UNICEF Cambodia, Phnom Penh, 2 December 2007.


The national laws, regional agreements and international conventions and protocols set a strong foundation
for a Cambodia that guarantees the wellbeing and rights of all its citizens, particularly women and children.
When we speak of rights, we are referring to simple, yet fundamental aspects such as ensuring that all
children have access to good health care, that all children go to school and receive a decent education, that
all children are brought up by families who love and respect them, protected from abuse and exploitation, that
all families are guaranteed sufficient income to ensure a decent life for all its members.

This applies to, among other factors, budgetary and fiscal policy which should be viewed as a tool to not only
ensure sufficient government revenues or the control of deficits, but as a way to provide sufficient resources
for the universal fulfilment of basic rights, particularly access to quality basic social services that support
comprehensive mechanisms to report violence against children and women. In order to arrive at this end,
fiscal objectives must be pursued on the basis of recognition of real and often severe resource limitations, and
the need to maintain macroeconomic stability, including limiting deficits and indebtedness.

United Nations Children’s Fund, Concept Note: Eyes on the budget as a human rights instrument, UNICEF, New York, 2007, p.2.


Social service providers are central figures in reporting and responding to violence against children. Whether
the abuse takes place at school, home, in the workplace or an institution, a professional from the social sector
is needed to provide psycho-social, medical, justice, and/or legal assistance. Cambodia’s social services
system is climbing an uphill battle to sustain the loss of doctors, lawyers, professors and other intellectuals
who died during the Khmer Rouge. The massive brain-drain combined with a subsequent baby boom has
rendered the social service provision woefully inadequate. Other factors in the capacity of the social service
system include a 1997 adult literacy rate of about 67 per cent, which is among the lowest in Southeast Asia.
This limits the population’s ability to make an informed demand for social services and presents a major
challenge to the State’s access to human resource capital. About 40 per cent of the Cambodian population
has never attended school, and less than one per cent has had any training beyond high school. Thus,
Cambodia lacks even the skilled personnel to effectively improve its administrative, legal, educational, and
medical institutions.

A key cross-cutting issue in the public sector, the social services sector in particular is low salaries. “The
seriousness of the issue of low public salaries in Cambodia is well-known, and its importance is self-evident.
The current scale of salary for public officials is far below the subsistence level. The average monthly wage
per civil servant was only $24 in 1998. This prevails among the majority of public servants across all branches
of power, except top level government officials and legislators (However, judges and prosecutors are not an
exception to this point). Not surprisingly, this creates an incentive for public officials—either to work side-jobs,
exclusively for aid-funded projects in return for salary supplements, or to abuse their authority to generate
unofficial income.”

The social services sector is further challenged by the diverse settings from which children experience and
report violence, and the lack of infrastructure in rural villages which serve as a barrier to the timely reporting of
violence. For example, during the rainy season the dirt roads leading to one village were too muddy for the
village chief to report a child rape case to the commune police. More than three days passed and the forensic
evidence needed to prosecute the case was no longer available.

Asian Development Bank, Enhancing Governance for Sustainable Development Enhancing Governance for Sustainable Development,
2001, p.35.
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Angtaso Commune, 24 September 2007.


Social workers
The capacity of the social work sector in Cambodia is extremely low and lacks the diversity needed to match
the demographics of the population. Social workers should be the liaison between all social service providers,
“[mediating] between the people, the State and other authorities….” But in Cambodia only 53 per cent of State
social workers have been trained. On top of that the average social worker is a 50-year-old male and at the
provincial and district levels only 17 per cent are women; these social workers are usually trained or educated
in other areas but have no social work background. There are only four State social workers for every 100,000
people – a ratio that makes it impossible for district and provincial social workers to manage and monitor
reports of child abuse in each of their respective communes. Therefore, there is no social worker presence at
the commune and village level.

Role in reporting violence against children

State social workers are charged with the child protection-related duties of collecting information on the
situation of vulnerable people within the district (khand), children in conflict with the law, and orphans and
abandoned children. This mandate does not explicitly require social workers to refer reports of violence
against children to other social service providers, nor does it require social workers to follow up on suspected
or confirmed cases of child abuse.

Social workers do have the responsibility to report cases of sexual abuse, labour exploitation, child
abandonment, domestic violence with physical injury, and children in conflict with the law in criminal cases,
according to the OSVY and DSVY Social Workers’ Role in Criminal Cases (District and Provincial offices of
Social Affairs, respectively). According to the praka, the social worker must write a summary report of the
case and forward the report and required documents to partner agencies such as the police or health
department. The social worker should also provide victim support during the case. If any of the prescribed
cases happen within the family, the social worker is mandated to raise the issue of removing parental
authority with the police or prosecutor.

Interviews with village and commune authorities confirmed that this reporting process does not happen. In
domestic violence cases that result in an arrest, the commune police typically detain the perpetrator for 24
hours and later release the perpetrator if the woman (typically a woman complainant) doesn’t want the case to
go to the district or provincial level. In many communes criminal cases don’t get reported to OSVY, therefore,
the office has limited knowledge of the real situation of children and women in the communes. This lack of
perspective, coupled with the wide coverage of social workers, insufficient finances for transportation and the
provision of victim support services (i.e. medical or legal support) makes it difficult (and in some cases
impossible) for social workers to fulfil their mandate.

In some villages the WCFP takes on the role of collecting information on orphans and abandoned children,
but sometimes children do not benefit from this system. One commune chief said sometimes a child will be
walking around in the village and people will ask who is this strange child? The commune chief will contact the
commune police to investigate, and he will learn that the child is an orphan or has been abandoned and begin
to look for alternative care. If the child is a boy he will most likely stay in a pagoda until long-term care can be
found (or if the child decides to be a monk he will stay long term); if the child is a girl they will try to find
someone in the village to foster her until they can find long-term arrangements.

Health workers
Cambodia has some of the worst health conditions in the region. At the end of the Khmer Rouge (1979) only
50 doctors remained in the country. Since then the physician density has dropped from 30 doctors per
100,000 people (2002) to the current ratio of 16 doctors per 100,000 people (2007). Most doctors are located

State social workers are paraprofessionals as they have received training from UNICEF and NGOs.
United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF Cambodia Internal Document, Phnom Penh, UNICEF, 2006, p. 37.
MoSVY provides social workers on the district and provincial levels/the Royal Government of Cambodia/Ministry of Social Affairs,
Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, Prakas 395 on OSVY.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, OSVY and DSVY Social Workers’ Role in Criminal Cases, Phnom Penh.
United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF Cambodia Internal Document, Phnom Penh, UNICEF, 2006, p. 37.

at the provincial level, and health workers (nurse, pharmacists, and medical assistants) have a coverage rate
of about 1 per 1,000 people.

Coverage and service delivery are aggravated by the low pay of health workers (some earn as little as $15
per month) and little oversight that has led to the practice of some medical staff offering private services
outside of the centre. The Ministry of Health, with support from the WHO, is moving toward a sector-wide
approach to the development of health, but as majority of donor assistance is going toward infrastructure
needs while capacity building for basic service delivery appears to remain insufficient.

Role in reporting violence against children

Health workers are not required by law to report suspected or confirmed cases of violence against children to
any social service provider or actor within the justice system. Because there is no mandate, doctors have
varying opinions on what their role should be in reporting child abuse. The two medical doctors interviewed for
this study had opposite opinions: At one provincial hospital, a doctor (also the hospital director) said that his
health staff goes with the conclusions of the family. If the child is injured and the parent says it was not hitting
we conclude that it was not hitting. This doctor believes that health workers should take the word of the
parent/person who brings the child for treatment. Another doctor said that there should be a reporting
system in the hospital because sometimes a child is who has suffered child abuse is sent to the hospital for
treatment and it would be good if the hospital had a reporting system for safe and confidential intervention.

The doctors concurred that health workers do not have the training to recognise violence against children but
didn’t agree on whether health workers should report suspected cases of abuse to social workers or the
police. As there is no clear role or mandate from the Ministry of Health, research found that other factors
preventing the health sector from participating in reporting child abuse is the general disagreement amongst
health workers on their role; prevailing societal attitudes on the privacy of family matters, and insufficient
training to distinguish between accidental injuries and those caused by violence.

The Ministry of Health has introduced the Document for Sexual Abuse Examination, a seven-page form
required to examine victims (including minors) of alleged sexual assault. Doctors are mandated to use the
form to examine victims of sexual assault. The form is the equivalent of a forensic certificate, and is issued by
the Provincial Board of Medical Expertise. Upon a written request hospitals are obliged to give copies to the
judicial police, the judge, the prosecutor or the victim’s attorney; however, the victim does not have access to
the form.

The form hasn’t been approved by all provinces but a medical worker interviewed for the study said that the
new form looks much easier to use as it has check boxes and illustrations whereas the old form was fill-in-the-
blanks and are more complex. Although the form has great potential to assist prosecutors in successfully
closing rape cases, a case study has noted some key issues that limit the value of the form. For example:

• In some provinces the victim can request an exam; in others the hospital will only do an exam if there is
an official written request from the police or a justice official.
• In some provinces, doctors fill out the form during the exam, sign it, and issue it as the official certificate.
Other doctors take notes and fill out and sign the form later. Yet others fill out the form during the exam
but issue a different form with a brief conclusion (such as ‘raped’ or ‘still a virgin’).
• In some provinces, members of the Forensics Committee are only allowed to perform the exam. However,
in most cases, any doctor in the relevant section of the hospital can do it.
• Some provincial hospital will do the exam on weekends and holidays; but most only perform it during
regular working hours, and many will only do it during the morning hours. This has implications on the
preservation of evidence in addition to the physical and psychological suffering of the child victim

Walford, V., Cambodia Country Health Briefing Paper: A paper produced for the Department for International Development, IHSD,
London, 2000, p. 3.
Ibid., p. 3.
Asian Development Bank, Country Assistance Plan: Cambodia, Social Infrastructure: Health. Retrieved from
Interview, Medical Doctor, Sombur Commune, 26 September 2007.
Interview, Medical Doctor, Cheoung Phnom Commune, 1 October 2007.
Interview, Medical Assistant, Cheoung Phnom Commune, 1 October 2007.
Ashby, Janet, Multi-Stakeholder Analysis on Authorized Health Examination Certificate Form Utilization for the Law Enforcement
Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children Project, UNICEF Cambodia, Phnom Penh, 2006.

• Some provinces refuse to perform the exam on married women, since they are presumably not virgins;
others do not know how to deal with boys, as many Cambodians think it impossible for a boy to be raped.
• Other hospitals will do an exam on anyone who makes a request.
• At least one province typically issues the signed form the same day – at the latest two days. Others
typically take two weeks, and in some places a victim can wait a month or more for issuance of the
• In some provinces a copy of the official certificate will be issued to police, court, or the victim’s lawyer; in
others the hospital will only release it to the prosecutor; however, it is not considered appropriate to
release the form to the victim on the grounds of “confidentiality.”
• A fee from KHR 20,000 to KHR 150,000 is charged in every province. In some provinces there is one
initial payment but in others it is necessary to pay separately for each copy of the certificate issued.
• In some provinces, the payment is distributed to members of the Forensic Committee, in others it goes
into the general funds of the hospital.

The inconsistency and lack of regulations regarding the use of the Document for Sexual Abuse Examination
places hurdles in the reporting and investigation phase of reporting violence against children and can cause
the contamination or loss of vital evidence needed to successfully prosecute rapists. The fees and sometimes
long wait for the form, coupled with the inability of the victim to verify or dispute the conclusion made by the
doctor, increases mistrust of the system and denies the victim the right to ensure that the report is made
according to his or her experience. Lack of regulations on performing the examination intensifies the trauma of
rape as the inability to receive immediate medical attention prolongs physical and psychological pain, and can
lead to a the loss or corruption of forensic evidence.

Local government
The nation-wide elections in 2002 established the Commune Council as a key institution in local
governance. To date there are 1,621 communes in Cambodia with a total of 11,261 elected councillors. The
Commune Councils are responsible for local development and social welfare. However, there are no clearly
articulated assigned functions for health, education and child protection (with the exception of birth
registration). Thus, the approach of Commune Councils to violence against children is ad-hoc and lacks

Figure 1: Commune Council Structure, Commune Council & Civil Society, p. 6.

Commune Committee for Women and Children (CWCC)

The Ministry of the Interior (MoI), with support from the Seth Koma (Child Rights) section of UNICEF
Cambodia piloted the establishment of a Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) to advise
the Commune Council on issues related to women and children. The members of the CCWC include the
second deputy commune chief, a health centre focal point, and an education focal point. As of this year
(2007), there are 317 CCWCs in operation with the mandate to:

The Royal Government of Cambodia/UNICEF Cambodia, Commune Council for Women and Children Proposal: Improving Local
Service Delivery, Competency Development Programme for Commune Committees for Women and Children/Focal Points, Phnom Penh,
2007, p. 1.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Law on Local Administration Local administration and Management of Commune Sangkat
(1201/2001), Article 43, Phnom Penh.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Ministry of Interior, Guideline No. 005, Phnom Penh, 2004.

 Ensure closer coordination between the commune and providers of essential social services for
children (e.g. links to schools, health centres, justice and social workers).
 Encourage communities, and in particular vulnerable groups within those communities, to articulate
their needs and refer them to appropriate services to meet those needs.
 Ensure equity in access to services, and closely monitor their delivery and quality.

A joint initiative of 1,621 commune councils and the UNICEF Cambodia Seth Koma section has led to a
revised version of the commune and village database and guidelines for data collection (2006) which includes
modified and additional indicators on women’s and children’s issues. In addition, the Commune Chiefs and
Commune Focal Points for Women and Children in 422 communes have been trained to protect and promote
women and children’s rights through activities such as mobilising parents for birth registration, immunisation
and enrolling children in primary school at the age set forth by the Ministry of Education. The clarification of
roles and responsibilities has been implemented with 152 Commune Councils so that these bodies have the
capacity to manage social sector projects in addition to identifying challenges that need to be addressed, such
as clarity of roles between the various provincial departments for monitoring.

Significant contrasts exist between the approach and levels of involvement of the WCFPs and CCWCs in
reporting and responding to violence against children. For example, one WCFP receives reports from the
Commune Council on violence against children. She immediately reports it to the district and provincial
authorities, records the incident it in her notebook, and furthers the report to the Commune Chief and Second
Deputy Commune Chief so that they too can record the incident.

Another WCFP receives reports from neighbours, children, wife, or the village chief that violence is taking
place in a household. If the violence is serious she assists the victim in getting to the hospital and calls the
commune police to arrest the perpetrator. If the violence is not serious then the WCFP, the village and
commune chief will go to the house and provide education to the family such as the penalty for violence, an
explanation of what violence means – i.e. hitting and shouting. The WCFP for this commune goes back the
next day to reinforce what she said, particularly if the father was drunken. If the (non-serious) violence
happens again, she invites the entire village to the house and explains the impact of violence against children
on children. She said that sometimes the perpetrators feel so embarrassed that they stop. She also has two
meetings per month with children representatives and has bi-quarterly dramas on violence against children.
She often asks the child who experiences violence at home to participate and sometimes the children and
parents cry; however, she follows up with the family to ensure that the child does not get punished for

Yet another WCFP said that she mainly focuses on OVCs: She collects data of vulnerable children (those
affected by HIV/AIDS, abandonment, neglecting, or orphan hood). She does this four times per month and
uses the data for planning. If given a clear mandate the WCFP has great potential to be the voice of women
and children at risk and in violent situations. Presently the lack of a clear role in reporting and responding to
violence against children limits the part that WCFP play in feeding into an official reporting mechanism.

Role in reporting violence against children

Reporting violence against children by local government authorities differ from commune-to-commune. In
some communes UNICEF supports a Child Protection Network in which each member has a specific child
protection, reporting function. In many Communes the CCWC said material hindered their efforts to report: We
have no resources to write reports, no camera, no computer, no materials - just pencils and paper, one
CCWC member said. The commune needs better equipment to preserve evidence.

Police officers
The police structure of Cambodia includes the national police, traffic police, anti-human-trafficking police
(AHTJP), the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), the Military Police. “In Cambodia’s police force,
untrained and unprofessional policemen dominate both the civilian and military police. The number of the civil
police personnel in the country is about 67,000 while that of the military police and gendarmerie is about

Draft Education Law, 2007, Article 32” Enrolment of children in grade 1 (one) of the formal general education program shall be set at an
age of 6 (six) years or at least 70 (seventy) months on the date of the beginning of the school year.”
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Kondeangreay Commune, 25 September 2007.
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Cheoung Phnom Commune, 1 October 2007.
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Kay Trabek Commune, 26 September 2007.
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Sombur Commune, 26 September 2007.

10,000.” All police officers are mandated to maintain peace, security, and stability, and to enforce law and
order. They are also responsible for the eradication of the sexual exploitation of minor children and women.
Through the Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children (LEASETC) project
three provincial police hotline services were established and child-friendly interview/investigation rooms were
created in five provinces. Police training (as of 2006) continued on the handling of trafficking and sexual
abuse/exploitation cases, with a total of 1,080 officers from the district and commune level in participation.

Even with training and ongoing support it is necessary to note that the typical police officer in Cambodia
is underpaid, under-trained and lacks the necessary resources to maintain high morale and operate
effectively. It is also very difficult for the general population and (and for children to trust the police).
“Corruption by poorly paid officials among Cambodia’s public officials is [a] fact of every-day life in the country.
Despite it being a clear breach of the police rules of discipline, such corruption is widespread, and can take
the forms of unofficial fines for traffic offences and services provided as well as illegally negotiated
compensation agreements between offenders and victims through which the police get a proportion of the
financial settlement. This practice has resulted in serious offences such as rape [and child rape] going
unpunished by the formal criminal justice system.”

Role in reporting violence against children

To fight corruption in police investigation and keep better track of trafficking and commercial sexual
exploitation in Cambodia (TSEC), the MoI and UNICEF developed a database to monitor the number of
reported cases on TSEC and the number of arrests. The database disaggregates information according to the
type of violence committed against the child or woman, the details of the perpetrator, and a summary report of
the incident. Each case has a code number that cannot be changed or dropped (to guard against corruption).
The form has not reached its full potential as a reporting mechanism because it is much longer than the
original one-page summary report form, and requires more time, said Christian Guth, UNICEF Cambodia
project staff, who works with the MoI on this initiative. “We have trained operators, established a monitoring
system, and conducted yearly refresher trainings but the database is still not yet able to provide reliable
statistics. So still we ask them [police officers] to send case reports because it’s only one page and the [one in
the] database is several [pages long].”

A 24-hour hotline and response unit was established under the MoI and central AHTPJ, and has been in
operation seen October 2000. The hotline is supported by UNICEF and World Vision. Victims, their families or
third parties can report cases and receive information about referral options. During 2006, the three provincial
police hotline services were established in three provinces and two municipalities. Data from the provincial
hotline shows that of the 351 calls received in 2007, rape was the most reported crime, the victim was the one
who called the most, and the local police were the authority that most commonly investigated. Statistics from
the hotline established in the municipalities revealed that rape was once again the most commonly reported
crime, but that a relative of the victim called the most, while the case was most commonly referred to the MoI
for investigation.

Muzamil, Jaleel, Who are Cambodian Police? Asian Human Rights Commission, para. 1. Retrieved 2 December 2007 from
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation, General Police. Retrieved 2 December
2007, from
Overseas Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State, Cambodia 2007 Crime & Safety Report: Police
response. Retrieved 2 December 2007 from
Das, K, Dilip, Palmiotto, Michael. The World Police Encyclopaedia, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 2006, New York, p. 149.
The Royal Government of Cambodia/Ministry of Interior, Provincial Hotline Activities, 2007.


Province & Types of cases Callers Investigated by






Ind A







Siem Reap 51 19 7 18 7 6 15 17 5 8 1 6
S' Ville 79 27 14 9 20 9 9 34 27 9 11
BM Chey 86 32 25 18 11 19 50 17 1 1
Kg Chhnang 75 42 7 3 4 6 8 5 38 27 5 5 3 5
BTB 59 45 14 2 4 45 8 4 6
PP 130 15 30 25 25 40 20 5 35 10 50 30 5 3

Total 351 180 14 14 30 29 0 24 46 14 60 154 0 8 0 0 21 0

Rape Rape
Ind A Indecent Assault
Sb Sell or buy
CSE Child Sexual Exploitation
HT Human Trafficking
HTCB Cross Border Human Trafficking
Dch Debauchery
Missg Missing Persons
Porn Pornography

Commune police often respond first to rape cases or other cases of severe child abuse. In the past (but less
now) responding to child rape has not been systematic. Sometimes the police would take the child directly to
an NGO centre and skip the judicial process altogether. Other times child victims were brought to an NGO
centre first and the NGO centre assisted the child and family before bringing the child to the police. Before the
UNICEF-led police training, police officers would automatically instruct the NGO to keep the child and typically
no official investigation of the matter would take place. Now the police have been instructed to hand the case
over to OSVY or DoSVY, depending on where the case originated, and leave it up to social workers to decide
where to send the child for treatment, follow-up or other victim support services. There are no official statistics
to support whether this reporting practice takes place or not, but NGOs such as ADHOC, the Cambodian
Women’s Crisis Centre (CCWC) and LICADHO require all incidents of child rape referred to the organisation
also be reported to police.

Justice officials
Civil and criminal procedure codes were adopted and came into force only in 2007, and other fundamental
laws are still being developed. There is not yet a juvenile justice system, and there are 265 judges and
prosecutors in Cambodia, many with no legal background as they were appointed soon after the collapse of
the Khmer Rouge. There are only 392 practicing lawyers in Cambodia - 1 per 36,600 people – and they are
unevenly distributed across the country. Many justice professionals have received little or no training on child
rights and protection and are not familiar with the national laws and international standards that should be
applied to cases involving children. The result is that alternatives to imprisonment are rarely considered, even
though they are supported by national laws, and children are often treated and sentenced as adults.
Inadequate birth registration makes it difficult to determine the age of children in contact with the law and the
lack of a criminal justice database make tracking children through the legal system difficult.

The Ministry of Justice has run training sessions on juvenile justice and child-friendly procedures for 215
police, prosecutors, judges and social workers; and 176 judges and prosecutors have been trained on child
rights and protection. Approximately 65 per cent of children in the prisons covered by UNICEF-supported
actions are assessed and monitored by government social workers and benefit from counselling, non-formal
education, and vocational training. Among those released, more than 75 per cent benefit from follow-up and
other victim support services from social workers.

Role in reporting violence against children

The primary function of justice officials is to “Prepare and disseminate the statistics of judicial and prosecution
affairs, and to prepare and manage the data system and development of the ministry.” This function also
includes reporting on children that are detained, prosecuted, and tried in the justice system. A study lead by
Legal Aid Cambodia (LAC) said that children reported excessive pre-trial detention took place in a majority of
prisons visited. “In all but one of the prisons, more than 45 per cent of the juveniles interviewed reported that
they had been detained beyond the legal time limit. Yet officials from the prisons and courts reported a far
lower level of excessive detention.”

Justice professionals reported that a lack of available resources to ensure efficient running of the courts
leading to delays and a lack of access to information on cases. In addition, some officials reported that they
were subject to pressure from society and government to detain suspects in prison pending their trials,
regardless of the length of pre-trial detention. Though capacity is generally low and the justice system is not
independent, UNICEF has supported the MoJ in strengthening legal standards and the training of official to
consider the rights of children when handling cases involving them, either as suspects, witnesses or victims. A
juvenile justice law, complying with international standards, has been drafted with UNICEF's assistance by the
Cambodian National Council for Children (CNCC), and is being finalised by the Ministry of Justice before
forwarding to the legislature for adoption.

Civil society interventions

Cambodian-based NGOs (national and international) are responding to violence against children in areas that
State social service providers are unable to reach. Child and women victims of physical and sexual violence
often contact NGOs for assistance with filing a complaint with the prosecutor and other legal services. The
following NGOs mentioned are not an exhaustive list of NGOs that work with child and women victims of
violence, but have either partnered with UNICEF in the past, or were repeatedly identified by the community in
FGDs and interviews as organisations that are active in child rights and reporting functions.

For example, LICADHO and ADHOC have the policy to report child violence to the police and encourage the
child to seek medical attention even if he or she does not want to. Both organisations also have human rights
monitors also visit children in prisons and detention centres to offer basic social services such as healthcare
and blankets. During this time the monitors also respond to a detained child’s complaints of violence, if there
is one, and follows-up with the prison warden to advise on the child’s right to not be violated and to suggest
ways to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

Other NGOs such as Friends-Mith Samlanh have social workers that meet children living or working on the
street at designated areas and counsel them on drug abuse, HIV/AIDS. The children are provided contact
phone numbers to the organisation’s social workers who respond to phone calls 24/7 and will meet the child at
any point in the city to provide basic social services such as taking the child to receive medical treatment,
filing a complaint with the police, or finding shelter for the night.

In the meantime, other NGOs such as the Rural Economic Development Association (REDA) have social
workers that meet the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS. As
in most cases it is in the best interest of the child to avoid institutionalisation and NGOs such as this one offers
material support such as rice or money to send the children to school and also check on the living conditions
of children in monitoring for abuse and neglect. Other organisations work with children who have been
trafficked (CCPCR) or have been identified as at risk to abuse. Sometimes the organization offers long-term
shelter, psychosocial counselling, basic education, and vocational training.

United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF Cambodia Child Protection: Justice for Children: Fact sheet, Phnom Penh, 2007.
Articles 7 and 10.
Legal Aid Cambodia. (March 2006). Securing Children's Rights in Cambodia: A Comparative Research on Juvenile Justice. Children
Rights International Journal, (Preliminary Report), p.1.
Ibid., p.1.
United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF Cambodia Child Protection: Justice for Children: Fact sheet, Phnom Penh, 2007.

Still others work to build the capacity of the community to protect children and to effectively report and follow-
up on child abuse cases (Chap-Dai – Joining Hands – Coalition). Although NGOs are filling a gap in the social
services sector, they too can only cater to a small proportion of those in need. Therefore, there are some
villages with no I/NGO support and no State support, which makes reporting violence against children in these
areas haphazard and non-existent.

In Cambodia there are two operational child helplines. This mechanism was strongly recommended and
praised in the UNSG World Report (2006), in which helplines were identified as ways that children can safely
report violence. The challenge will be to ensure that all provinces have access to the payphones, and that
they are placed in areas that are not too conspicuous. Such a mechanism is important as fear of more
violence is one reason that prevents children in particular from reporting violence, said children and village
chiefs in FGDs.

National Child Helpline

In May 2007 a National Child Helpline Steering Committee was spearheaded by Chab Dai (Joining Hands)
Coalition and coordinated by many local NGOs and UN agencies, piloted a national hotline for a year during
which time 60 cases of violence against children was referred to LICADHO for legal assistance. After the
pilot and needs assessment, the Steering Committee collaborated with the Ministry of Post &
Telecommunications to obtain a free three-digit phone number that is easy for children to remember and can
be used across all mobile phone networks. Child Helpline International (CHI), which operates 90 helplines in
79 countries, is providing technical assistance to the Steering Committee to plan and establish a national
Child Helpline in 2008.

Childsafe Helpline
ChildSafe, operated by Friends International - Mith Samlanh, is not free of charge to the public, but children
who use it are reimbursed by the organisation. Although any child can use it to report violence it is mainly
used by children working and living on the street to reach a social worker within the organisation. In the
Friends network, the members, children working and living on the street, neighbours and travellers use the
ChildSafe helpline to report, or prevent violence.

The National Child Helpline is a coordinated effort between several NGOs and UN agencies. The following form part of the Steering
Committee: Child Helpline International, Save the Children-Australia, UNICEF, World Vision, Chab Dai Coalition, United Nations
Interagency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, Plan, Destiny Rescue, Action pour Les Enfants, and
International Justice Mission.
Interview with Sworn, Helen, Director, Chab Dai (Joining Hands) Coalition, Phnom Penh, 24 October 2007.


Central, local government, media and police

• Everyone needs to be involved. Teachers, health and social workers need to be equipped with the skills to
recognise when children are being subjected to violence and to know how to respond – a referral service
for case follow up is often necessary. The role of NGOs, communities and community groups, religious
leaders and others is also essential. The media has a responsibility to play in helping to shape attitudes
towards violence, and to ensure that child victims of violence are not stigmatised or put further at risk by
sensational or insensitive coverage of their cases.
• Establish better data collection systems (that include all forms of violence against children) which can be
input into the commune-level database. Ensure that each commune has one computer and that one
person is responsible for data entry. This will increase the State’s and communities’ awareness of the
levels and types of violence against children and motivate positive behaviour change.
• On the central level – establish a centralised database to enable the collecting of comprehensive and
systematic data on child abuse, exploitation and maltreatment so that such information is not scattered
among various government departments such as the district or provincial social affairs offices, hospitals,
police agencies and NGOs.
• Establish a national research agenda in the context of agreed international indicators, and with particular
reference to vulnerable subgroups. Weaknesses in data collection and collation particularly affect the
most disadvantaged groups of children who are often missed by social welfare organisations.
• Use behaviour change communication (BCC) programmes to address the societal norm that domestic
violence is a private family matter and children need physical punishment to create a culture of non-
violence and a sustained and informed demand for reliable, safe reporting mechanisms that are supported
by quality victim support services.
• Conduct an in-depth cost and benefit analysis on the trade off that increased government spending on
social services and the impact it would have on the economy, child rights, and meeting the MDGs. Use
the results for advocacy on all levels of government.
• The Ministry of Interior and/or Ministry of Justice should issue definitions on “serious” and “non-serious”
violence, and the appropriate response to each category. All police and local authorities should be
required to adhere to the definitions and the prescribed actions when responding to cases.
• Establish a centralised database. Researchers struggle to collect comprehensive and systematic data,
often because data on child abuse, exploitation and maltreatment, when collected and recorded at all, is
scattered among various government departments, local welfare authorities, hospitals, police officials and
voluntary organisations.
• Develop and implement systematic national data collection and research: This refers to the urgent need to
improve data collection and information systems by 2009, in the context of a national research agenda
and agreed international indicators, and with particular reference to vulnerable subgroups. . Weaknesses
in data collection and collation particularly affect the most disadvantaged groups of children who are often
missed by social welfare organisations.
• Each level of Government should review existing reporting systems, with the involvement in this review of
children or young adults with recent experience of child protection services.

Health workers
 The Ministry of Health is not required by the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the
Protection of Victims to report serious cases of child abuse to prosecutors because the Ministry is not
mandated with the social welfare of children. However, paediatricians are concerned with the well-being of
children and should be required to refer non-serious cases of abuse to social workers; and serious cases
of abuse to the judiciary police.

United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p. 11.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, ‘The 12
Overarching Recommendations: No.11’, New York, 2007.
Ibid., p.11.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, ‘The 12
Overarching Recommendations: No.11’, New York, 2007.

 Child victims of sexual violence will most likely have a wide range of treatment needs, including
prophylaxis to prevent STIs such as HIV. Health workers should be meted the responsibility to prioritise
the child’s physical health and to refer the child for psychosocial support services and child welfare and
protection services. They should be trained to detect violence and to document and report incidents of
violence. Incidents of violence detected outside the health sector should be referred to health worker for
proper assessment and care.
 Ensure that paediatricians have the resources to carry out the referral and reporting function with little or
no misidentifications of child abuse. Such resources and capacity building can include:
• Medical training to positively identify indications of physical, psychological, and sexual violence
against children 99 per cent of the time.
• Guidelines on which agency to refer the child to according to the seriousness of the case.
• Training on interviewing techniques to assess the parents’ account of the child’s injuries
compared to the physical evidence of the injuries, and account for anomalies.
• Standardised forms to write an official medical opinion as to why the child has been identified as a
victim of violence; and a clear line of reporting and follow up with the referral agency on the status
of the case.
• Legal protection from lawsuits in the case of misidentification.
• Transportation and other material support for paediatricians who have mastered the above
competencies to train medical workers in the commune health departments.
 In regards to the Document for Sexual Abuse Examination, the following action points would strengthen
the availability, accuracy, and prosecutor confidence in the form such as the establishment of:
• A standardised low fee set by the Ministry of Health for the exam, and a waiver for victims of
sexual assault who cannot afford to pay.
• Requirements that hospitals disclose the fee and indicate whether the victim incurred additional
costs for copies.
• A focal point within the Department of Hospital Services at the Ministry of Health to receive and
follow-up on complaints about the quality and process of the sexual abuse forensic exam.
• Basic guidelines on how to fill out the form, provide victim support, and address cases of boy
victims of rape.
• Opportunities for participants to share experiences, lessons learned and best practices on a
quarterly basis. In the future, district referral hospitals should be trained and authorised to do
forensic exam, while the Forensic Committees reviews the form and provides an official signature.

Social workers
• Train social workers on case management and linking child victims to relevant governmental agencies
and non-governmental agencies. Once social workers receive a report of violence, they should
provide counselling to child victims and their families, organise the community to be advocates for
children – reporting abuse when the family will not, and monitoring and evaluation of the development
of cases.
• Support the establishment of the impending School of Social Work at the Royal University of Phnom
Penh. Ensure that it admits and provides scholarship to students who reflect the diverse needs of the
nation – i.e. young women and poor students.
• Advocate with the Council of Ministers to allocate more money to support the training of existing
social workers, recruit and train new social workers, pay a living wage to all social workers, and
provide finances to the Ministry of Social Services to support service delivery such as transportation
stipends for visits to children’s homes, subsidising medical care for children who have experienced
violence and cannot afford to see a healthcare worker; and supporting existing laws that require social
workers to report violence against children by ensuring that the social worker has and understands his
or her clear mandate to report, refer, and otherwise respond to reports of violence against children.

Justice officials
• The Ministry of Justice should take steps to ensure all courts have access to, and training on, the 2005
Guideline on Policies Implementation of the existing National and International Law related to Juvenile
• The authorities should take steps to monitor implementation of the law to ensure compliance.
• Governments should develop processes that are child-sensitive so that child victims of violence are not
subjected to multiple interviews and examinations, possibly re-traumatising the child. Court processes

Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Handbook for Parliamentarians N° 13: Eliminating Violence against
Children, IPU-UNICEF, New York, 2007, p.34.

should be respectful of children’s privacy and ensure that child witnesses are not subjected to extended
court proceedings. The stress of court proceedings can be reduced, for example, by videotaping
evidence, using screens in the courtroom, and offering witness-preparation programmes and access to
child-friendly legal support.
• Official and safe mechanisms to report violence against children in detention should be established and
children who make a report should receive extra protection during the investigation.

• Strengthen local capacity through communication activities Communication initiatives should equip the
affected parents/primary caregivers, health workers, teachers, police officers, social workers, children and
youth groups and other relevant partners with the knowledge, authority and motivation to identify and
respond to trafficking.
• Advocate with the community, local governments, police and law enforcement agencies to strengthen
child protection mechanisms for reporting suspected or confirmed cases of trafficking.
• Support legal mechanisms and systems that allow communities to quickly report cases of child abuse,
trafficking or violence.

Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Handbook for Parliamentarians N° 13: Eliminating Violence against
Children, IPU-UNICEF, New York, 2007, p. 17.
Woods, Lisa, Gilbert, Ulrike, & Stuart, Teresa, Behaviour Change Communication in Emergencies: A toolkit, UNICEF ROSA,
Kathmandu, 2006, p. 146.
Ibid., p. 146.


Violence against children takes place at home and in the community which includes any space used or
occupied by children other than homes, schools, institutions, and organised workplaces. These include the
neighbourhoods, streets, parks and playgrounds, fields, markets and places that children and young people
grow up. The State is obliged to protect children from violence and provide reporting mechanisms in all
settings, including alternative living situations such as residential care, prisons and detention centres. Each
sub-section under “Settings” aims to cover the background and context of violence in which children
experience it, contributory factors and risks, prevalence identified in prior and current research, the impacts on
children and others, and the necessary directions for preventive action and for response (a complete reporting
mechanism) to violence.

“Sexual abuse, physical and psychological violence, and sexual harassment are forms of violence which
occur in all settings. In most societies, sexual abuse of girls and boys is most common within the home or is
committed by a person known to the family. But sexual violence also occurs in schools and other educational
settings, by peers and teachers alike. [Such violence] is rife against children in closed workplaces, such as
domestic labourers employed in private households. It also takes place in institutions and in the community, at
the hands people known to the victim and others. Girls suffer considerably more sexual violence than boys,
and their greater vulnerability to violence in many settings is in large part a product of the influence of gender-
based power relations within society. At the same time, boys are more likely to be the victims of homicide and
particularly of violence involving weapons”

Findings from field and desk reviews found that reporting mechanisms vary from setting-to-setting but overall
children in Cambodia lack safe and easy ways to report violence. Current and draft legislation on domestic
violence, corporal punishment in school, and minimum standards on alternative care lack clear definitions of
what constitutes violence against children and in most cases do not outline a clear process for children or
third-parties to report current violence or monitor the situation of children in the setting for potential violence
and other child rights abuse.

A basic assumption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is that the “Family is the natural environment
for the growth and well-being of all its members.” But families can be dangerous places for children and in
particular for babies and young children. The prevalence of violence against children by parents and other
close family members – physical, sexual and psychological violence, as well as deliberate neglect – has only
begun to be acknowledged and documented. Challenging violence against children is most difficult in the
context of the family in all its forms. There is a reluctance to intervene in what is still perceived in most
societies as a ‘private’ sphere. But human rights to full respect for human dignity and physical integrity –
children’s and adults’ equal rights – and State obligations to uphold these rights do not stop at the door of the
family home. In Cambodia violence in the home stems from many reasons. In a State where about 50 per
cent of the child population works, a common household conflict is occurs between children who want to go to
school and parents who would rather them work is a common cause of violence in the home, according to
FGDs. An 11-year-old girl reported frustration with the official response to her complaint from the authorities in
her village on this issue. Her aunt hits her if she doesn’t do housework or help in the shop. She tells her
friends and the village chief; he comes to the house and explains that she needs to go to school and that the
aunt should stop fighting her. The girl, who is also an orphan, said that the aunt stops for only two or three
days and starts again.

Violence against women at home

According to the Cambodian Demographic and Health Survey (2000), 23 per cent of women from 15- to 49-
years old that had ever been married had experienced violence in their families. LICADHO notes that
“Women who came of age during the Khmer Rouge period (those now in the 36- to 50-year-old age bracket)

Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence Against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p.7.
Ibid., p.47.
Ibid., p. 47.
FGD, Children, Kay Trabeck, 27 September 2007.
Violence against Women: A Baseline Survey: Final report Cambodia 2005, GTZ/UNIFEM/CIDA/EWMI/USAID, Phnom Penh, p. 7.

reported significantly higher rates of domestic abuse.” Although violence against women is not direct
physical violence against children, it is a form of psychological violence as children live in fear for their
mother’s safety, and sometimes their own. Violence in the home is also a factor in children missing school.
“About 20 per cent of the women who reported abuse said that their children had missed school from five to
20 times during the previous year due to domestic violence. About 7 per cent said their children missed school
20 or more times during this period. A much higher proportion of this sub-sample – 68 per cent of the men and
58 per cent of the women – said their children had missed school from one to five times during the last

Psychological violence against children at home

When parents routinely physically fight each other in front of children or in close proximity to a child, that child
will most likely experience psychological violence and impaired emotional or cognitive development.
“Standard definitions are lacking, and little is known about the global extent of this form of violence against
children except that it frequently accompanies other forms: A strong coexistence between psychological and
physical violence against children in violent households has been established.”

One 12-year-old boy said that his aunt and uncle fight all of the time, in spite of the commune chief’s
counselling. “I live with my aunt, and there is no one to take care of me, and I feel scared, and I don’t feel
good,” he said. “I tell the commune chief and he comes to the house to tell them to stop, but they still fight.”
In the violent family setting, “There is constant fear and anxiety caused by the anticipation of violence; pain,
humiliation and fear during its enactment; and, in older age groups, the loneliness of parental rejection,
distrust, and at times self-disgust.

Physical violence against children at home

Hitting children to warrant obedience has often been seen as an appropriate way to discipline. In Cambodia
there are no laws that expressly forbid hitting children and studies have shown that it is common. In the
Cambodia National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (2004), 51 per cent of boys and 36 per cent of girls report
having been beaten by their parents; 82 per cent of girls and 81 per cent of boys report having seen other
children being beaten by their parents; and 26 per cent of children reported that domestic violence had
occurred in their families over the previous 30 days. Internal factors that put children more at risk to
violence include the quality of family relationships or the characteristics of individual family members
(alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, and poor self control). “Dysfunctional family relationships and poor
parent–child interactions have a critical bearing on whether children experience violence in the home.”
Other factors relate to the individual attributes of the child such as age, gender, and the roles assigned to the
family members.

Reporting processes
The self-report of violence took on different forms for children in communes with no community-based
reporting systems versus those in communes with such systems. The former group of children said in FGDs
that they experienced a high level of violence at home, and didn’t receive much support from local officials if
they made a report of violence; while some did not bother to make a report at all due to a lack of confidence in
the system. All children interviewed reported that their peers provided a safe way to pass on reports of
violence to adults because their friends could tell an adult while the abused child’s involvement in the report
remained anonymous. Teachers also played a prominent but unofficial role in reporting domestic violence
against children. Teachers said in FGDs that in some cases they see that the child is withdrawn, missing
many days at school or has injuries to the body. In either case the teachers said that they refer the case of
suspected violence to the school director, local authorities (i.e. village or commune chief), the WCFP, CWCC,
or sometimes make a visit to the child’s home.

Ibid., p. 7.
Ibid., p. 7.
Dube, S.R., et al. (2002). Exposure to Abuse, Neglect, and Household Dysfunction among Adults Who Witnessed Intimate Partner
Violence as Children: Implications for Health and Social Services, Violence and Victims, 17(1), 3-17, as cited in the
‘World Report on Violence against Children,’ United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children,’
Geneva, 2006, p. 61.
FGD, Children, Brasath Commune, 3 October 2007.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p. 61.
The Royal Government of Cambodia/Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS). (2004). The Cambodia National Youth Risk
Behaviour Survey, as cited in ‘Stop Violence against Us Now!’ Summary Report I, Tearfund (Cambodia), Phnom Penh, 2004.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p.67.
FGD, Village Chiefs, Koy Tbeng Village, 27 September 2007.

In FGDs responses in both Svay Rieng and Prevy Veng provinces revealed that reporting on violence against
children in rural communes lacked regularity as many villagers do not have phones or easy access to the
commune police. Reporting took the form of the self-report of child victims (or friends of the child victim),
relatives, neighbours, or by observation of the authorities. Villagers walked or rode a bicycle or motorbike and
used a payphone or radio (where available), to report violence to the village chief or commune chief/police. If
the violence was deemed not serious, meaning no blood or visible injuries, an arrest is not made although the
authorities may require the perpetrator to sign a form promising not to commit the act again. If the violence re-
occurs, the chief and community authorities approach the house with the promissory note, and carry out
whatever stipulations were set forth in the agreement (unless the wife asks that the husband not be arrested,
which commonly happens). Such agreements are filed in the commune office and some communes use them
for planning advocacy and educational activities in the community.

Significant barriers to reporting violence against children are that most Cambodians don't feel they should
intervene in another family’s arguments' and this feeling extends to the police. Suffering is valued over
bringing shame and dishonour to yourself or your family. Children are expected to endure hardship rather than
seek help from outside of the family. An example of this societal norm is one that a 12-year-old girl who
participated in a FGD said that her friend’s sister accused him of stealing money that she keeps hidden. The
father beat the boy until he was in a coma but no one came to help him. She said the boy wasn’t taken to the
hospital but instead recovered at home. When asked why she didn’t ask anyone for help she said: I didn’t tell
anyone because everyone knows that the children are being beat. Similarly an 11-year-old from the same
commune said she knows of routine physical violence against his friend in which no adults intervene. The 9-
year-old neighbour [friend] wanted his father to buy something but his father refused. Instead he got an
electric cord or a belt to beat him [and his 13-year-old brother]. It happens every time the parents think the
children do something wrong: The victim's brother tries to stop the father but the father beats the brother too,
and no adults intervene, she added.

Another barrier is the attitudes of some authorities, women, and children who accept violence as an
appropriate way to discipline: In one commune two village chiefs said that children caused violence against
themselves by not obeying adults; and that physical punishment was necessary in order to make children
grow up to be good people. This view on corporal punishment undoubtedly influenced the village authorities
conclusion that violence the community was not a problem; even though the children said that they
experienced a lot of violence, and said that if people hear or see violence happening to children they just walk
by. Some women also believe that they deserve the domestic violence because they did violence to someone
else in a previous life.

Violence against children in schools takes on many forms. Teachers may beat children if they misbehave or
haven’t done their homework or schoolwork properly, or may shout at students or call them names. Youth
violence, including bullying, sexual assault, and gang violence is also a growing concern. Although data and
information on violence in schools is scarce and studies specifically related to violence against children in
school have only been conducted in a few countries, anecdotal evidence indicates the problem is
widespread. In the 2005 Tearfund study (1,314 children, 671 girls and 639 boys) nearly 24.1 per cent of
girls and 34.7 per cent of boys said that they had been beaten by their teacher in school, although under-
reporting is prevalent because of a lack of safe and confidential reporting mechanisms, and children’s
acceptance of corporal punishment as appropriate discipline.

Reporting processes
The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports (MoEYS) has oversight over the education and sports sectors in
Cambodia. The Ministry of Education formally outlawed punishment in schools in 2006 with an internal
regulation that stated, “Penalties of all forms imposed on pupils at the educational establishments nationwide
shall be totally prohibited. Those penalties include: Beating, kneeling down, standing under the sun. Emotional

Miles, G., Stop Violence Against Us! Summary Report I, Tearfund (Cambodia) 2005, Phnom Penh, p. 8.
FGD, Children, Braseth Commune, 3 October 2007.
FGD, Commune Council for Women and Children, Cheoung Phnom Commune, 1 October 2007.
Child Rights Information Network, UN’s Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children Concludes, UNICEF EAPRO, 2005,

penalties include asking pupils to write [an] entire lesson for many times in excess of his/her capacity to do so,
causing mental suffering, causing emotional sadness in mind, or causing humiliation....”

Some schools have counsellor, girl counsellors or teachers in charge of women’s affairs. In FGDs teachers
said that students are aware of the role these teachers play in reporting violence or other problems and can
confidentially report incidents that occur at school or homes. In other schools children representatives are
trained to accept reports of violence from their peers and pass the report on to teachers or another trusted
result. Children do not report cases of violence at home to teachers, teachers said in a FGD. A friend or
classmate tells the teacher who passes the information on to the relevant authorities – depending on whether
the violence occurred at home or at school. Teachers went on to say that an official reporting mechanism in
school would allow children to safely report violence at home if it was set up in a way that the parents didn’t
know how and where the report was made. In one FGD a teacher said that a father of some students from the
school routinely gets drunk and beats his children. The teacher went to have a discussion with him and the
father didn’t say anything when they teacher was there, but later took a wooden stick and beat the children
afterwards. This underscores the need for confidential reporting mechanism to protect children from re-
victimisation during the reporting system.

The potential for an official mechanism to report violence against children is provided in the draft Education
Law which allows children and parents to complain if a child experiences violence or other child rights abuse
at school “Parents or guardians, learners and educational personnel, whose rights specified in this law, are
violated, have the right to request or complain to the competent educational authority at different levels as
well as to the court.” However, a specific process or focal person has not been established to facilitate
safe and confidential reporting as the law states that “The Ministry in charge of Education shall issue
regulations on procedures for requests, complaints and solutions.” Thus children still lack a clear
process to make a complaint of violence that may occur in schools.

According to Understanding Children's Work in
Cambodia (2006), 52 per cent of children from 7- to
The TBP Support Project
14-year old – more than 1.4 million children – were  
economically active in 2001.
UNICEF does not The ILO-IPEC and MoLVT project focuses
oppose work that children perform at home, on the specifically on child labour in the following target
family farm or for a family business – as long as sectors and geographical areas:
that work is not a danger to their health and well- • Child domestic workers, Phnom Penh
being, and doesn’t prevent them from going to • Children working in salt production and
school and enjoying childhood activities.
Yet in fisheries, Kampot
Cambodia more than 250,000 children from 15- to • Children working in fisheries, Kep
17-years-old are working in seven of the 16 • Children working in fisheries, Sihanoukville
nationally-identified hazardous sectors (e.g. • Children working in rubber plantations and brick
portering, domestic work, rubbish picking, rubber making, Kampong Cham
and tobacco plantation, brick-making, salt • Children working in brick making, Siem Reap
production, begging) or are working 43 plus hours • Child porters, Banteay Meanchey
per week. Incidentally the secondary school net
enrolment ratio is 50.4 per cent.

The Royal Government of Cambodia/Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports No: 922, (2006 March 16). State Minister, Minister of
Education, Youth & Sports to Director of Provincial/Municipal Department of Education, Youth and Sports, Phnom Penh, 2006.
FGD, Teachers (22), Banteay Primary School, 27 September 2007.
FGD, Teachers (22), Banteay Primary School, 27 September 2007.
FGD, Teachers (20), Check Commune, 28 September 2007.
FGD, Teachers (22), Banteay Primary School, 27 September 2007.
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Draft Education Law, Article 40, Phnom Penh, 2007.
Ibid., Article 40.
The Cambodia Labour Law sets a general minimum working age at 15 years, but allows children aged 12-14 years to perform “light”
work that is not hazardous to their health or interfere with their schooling. Cambodia’s Labour Law sets the minimum allowable age for
any kind of employment or work which by its nature could be hazardous to the health, safety, or morality at 18 years. Therefore, for a
complete estimate of child labour in accordance with national legislation, it is necessary to look at all below age workers (all economically
active 7-11 year-olds), all economically active 12-14 year-olds except those in light work, and all 15-17 year olds in hazardous work or
worst forms of work (UCW, pp. 15-16).
United Nations Children’s Fund, Child Protection Sheets: Child labour, 2007, p. 15.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Report Card on Gender Parity and Primary Education: Number 2, UNICEF, New York, 2005.

In another commune, the village chief said that a girl’s parents forced her to quit school and work as a
domestic labourer in Thailand to support the family. But it was unsafe migration and she ended up in
prostitution. She came back only once. In this same village the chief said other parents threaten the
children and physically hit them to make work. He said this is most common during harvest season; parents
stop children from attending school to work.
Child labour is often viewed as a necessity because of widespread poverty in Cambodia, but it also leaves
children open to violence and places them in situations where they have no way to report or escape violence.
Children living in urban centres may not have the money to pay the unofficial school fees so they resort to
working on the streets, in the service sector, or in other employment. Rural poverty often results in parents
resorting to risky coping mechanisms such as allowing their children to work in unregulated sectors such as
agriculture where they are exposed to harmful pesticides, or allowing them to migrate internally and externally.
For example, an estimated 2,000 children cross the border into Thailand each day to do manual labour or
beg. These children can easily become involved in exploitative labour, trafficking, and violence by law
enforcement officials if they have unclear immigration status.
The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MoLVT) has the mission to lead and manage all labour and
vocational training issues in Cambodia and enforcing the child labour provisions set forth in the Labour Law
(1997) which indicate that children must be 15-years old to engage in wage labour; at least 18-years-old to
engage in hazardous labour; and that children can engage in light labour for pay if they are at least 12-years-
old and the work doesn’t interfere with their safety, morals, school or vocational training. The Department
of Child Labour (DoCL) has a technical and advisory function and supports integration of child labour
issues across government, specifically to:
 Develop policies, laws and regulations concerning child labour.
 Implement State policies, international conventions and treaties concerning child labour, especially
the worst forms of child labour.
 Monitor the implementation of the National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of
Child Labour and the international conventions concerning child labour.
 Cooperate and coordinate with ministries, UN agencies, institutions, I/NGOs to address child labour-
related issues.
 Collaborating, implementing and evaluating with partner ministries, institutions, NGOs and
International Organizations, the projects and programmes on the elimination of child labour.

Reporting processes
Although preventing children from attending school is considered a “fault” under the Law on Marriage and
Family, the same type of labour exploitation was reported from commune-to-commune: The parents
sometimes push the children to do work, traffic girls for commercial sexual exploitation (CSE), and push the
child to work without pay. Sometimes children work outside and the parents take the money and do not give
the children anything. The Ministry has tasked labour inspectors to monitor and report child labour violations
in some private sector employers; however, State oversight and ability to monitor and respond to reports of
violence against children on the job is weak as most children work in the informal sector or for their family
farm or business.

Violence against children in care and justice systems is legitimised by long-held attitudes and behaviours, and
failures in both law and its implementation. At the time when the establishment of care institutions for children
in disadvantaged and marginal groups was a preferred social policy, corporal punishment was almost
universally endorsed for the discipline and control of unruly children. This effectively meant that
institutionalised children were exposed to a brutal regime and to frequent violence. In all regions, by omission

FGD, Village Chiefs, Svay Check Commune, 27 September 2007.
FGD, Village Chiefs, Svay Check Commune, 27 September 2007.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p. 10
The Royal Government of Cambodia, Labour Law, Article(s) 178, 179, 180, 1997.
The former Child Labour Unit (CLU) now under the MLVT.
Check Commune, 28 September 2007.

or commission, this situation still prevails. While not all youth in detention come from disadvantaged groups,
street youth are consistently over represented in the juvenile justice system.

The perception of street children as a threat rather than as children in need of special protection is also
reflected in much national legislation which still considers vagrancy as an offence in itself. This ultimately
results in increased numbers of children being in conflict with the law. The absence of national standards
and statistics on foster care, and the informal system of foster care, the lack of established mechanisms to
review, monitor and follow up on the placement of children are issues that hinder children from reporting
violence. Some studies have found that violence in residential institutions is six times higher than violence in
foster care, and that children in group care are almost four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than
children in family-based care.

Residential care
Marginalised children or children from less privileged environments often come into contact with child
institutions. Violence frequently occurs in detention centres, orphanages and other institutions. In Cambodia
a disproportionate number of children placed in institutions are from families living in abject poverty: Some
children’s parents may believe that they are too poor to raise their children, or the relatives of
orphaned/abandoned children lack the material resources to provide kinship care. In 2007 an estimated
8,666 Cambodian children were registered as living in residential care: 44 per cent were placed due to
poverty, 39 per cent because of orphanhood, and 9 per cent were abandoned.

Reporting processes
Residential care facilities for children are monitored by the Child Welfare Department of MoSVY. The Prakas
on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children (2006) outline management, monitoring and reporting
guidelines for centres. Management and staff of the facility are supposed to ensure that children are informed
of their rights and procedures to make a complaint and establish an incident management plan for handling
any allegations or suspicions of misconduct toward children is established by the facility. Facilities are
supposed to appoint an external Case Management Officer to ensure that the child who makes a complaint is
protected from harm when filing a complaint or taking legal action. However, recent UNICEF studies show that
91 per cent of alternative care institutions have no written principles on complaints procedures (which should
include reporting mechanisms) in place. Thus, children in alternative care institutions have no means to report
physical, sexual, or psychological violence – and although institutions are required by law to establish
reporting mechanisms – they have failed to do so for numerous reasons: Human and financial capacity being
the primary ones.

Furthermore, when children are abandoned or orphaned there is no set procedure for their placement in
kinship or residential care, and a general absence of accurate national standards and statistics on foster care
and adoption. There is also there no established mechanism to review, monitor and follow up on the
placement of children, which leaves OVCs vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation, particularly
if they have not been registered at birth.

Prisons or detention centres

Children in conflict with the law have little means of reporting violence that occurs while they are detained or
incarcerated, mostly in adult prisons. Maltreatment of detained children and youth in the form of inhumane
and unsanitary living conditions has been reported in many countries, including Cambodia. In spite of legal
prohibitions, children and youth are not always separated from adults, making them vulnerable to violence and
abuse by fellow inmates. This is the situation in Cambodia where as of August 2007, there were 588 minors
in detention – 25 per cent of them being held pending a trial, and roughly 50 per cent housed in adult prisons.
A juvenile justice law, complying with international standards, has been drafted by the Cambodian National
Council for Children and is being finalised by the Ministry of Justice.

Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, pp. 180-181.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p.20
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, pp.181-183.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p. 9.
The Royal Government of Cambodia/MoSVY Alternative Care database 2007.
The Royal Government of Cambodia/Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children, (2006) (Article 7).
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p.10.
United Nations Children’s Fund, Child Protection: Working toward justice for children, UNICEF Cambodia, Phnom Penh, 2007.

Reporting processes
There are currently no official reporting mechanisms in prisons with which children can report incidents of
violence to their supervisors or the prison warden. Interviews with human rights organisations said that
children commonly report violence to their parents (who are allowed to visit twice per month) or to their
attorneys. Human rights monitors from LICADHO or ADHOC also visit the child and sometimes receive
reports of violence. The human rights monitor from LICADHO (Svay Rieng) said that in the past he received
reports of violence from child prisoners, or staff would see evidence of physical abuse when they provide
monthly healthcare service to the children. The monitor would discuss the reported case to the warden and
advise on child protection; but since a change in administration has taken place, the organisation hasn’t
received any new reports of violence against children in prison this year.


The community is defined as any space used or occupied by children other than homes, schools, institutions,
and organised workplaces. These include the neighbourhoods, streets, parks and playgrounds, shopping
malls that children and young people grow up in. The community however is not only a physical space, but a
social environment. Children are born and grow up under its framework of behaviours, attitudes, customs and
beliefs and are thereby socialised through it to engage with the wider world, including learning how to deal
with the network of relationships and institutions that provide the non-familial context of their lives. A child’s
vulnerability to violence in the community increases with age and maturity and increased contacts with the
wider world.

In Phnom Penh there are, on a daily basis, 1,000-1,500 street children who have completely cut ties with their
families and have made the streets their home. Depending on the definition and according to the figures
accepted by UNICEF, there are between 10,000-20,000 street children working on the streets that have kept
ties with their families and return home either regularly or irregularly. Domestic violence; rural poverty that
leads to urban migration and urban poverty which forces many children to work are some factors that
contribute to children living and working on the streets.

Gang violence
According to the Cambodia 2007 Crime & Safety Report, there has been an increase in the number of youth
gangs that operate in Phnom Penh … and the Cambodian Government has instructed the police to launch a
crack down on the gangs. All Cambodian children are subject to violence from street gangs but street
children are particularly vulnerable to bullying by gangsters and are often coerced into committing crimes or
joining gangs for personal safety.

Reporting processes
The police – the official eyes and ears of the streets – are often perpetrators of violence against street children
rather than trusted adults to which they report violence or turn to for help. According to the Street Profile
(2006), 25 per cent (of the 100 street children surveyed) reported that they had problems with the police, not
only for fighting, taking drugs, stealing, etc., but during the Municipality “Clean-Ups” where the city tries to rid
Phnom Penh of children and families living and working on the streets by putting them into government

As children living and working on the streets often don’t trust the authorities because of past experiences of
poor treatment and other forms of marginalisation, research found that they commonly report violence to
social workers who work for Friends - Mith Samlanh, which has an Outreach Team, or other NGO centres that
didn’t participate in this study. The social workers meet the children on specific areas of the street and provide
basic counselling. If children are abused or otherwise find themselves in a violent situation, they call the social

Interview with Mom Lida, Human Rights Monitor, LICADHO, Svay Rieng , 26 September 2007.
137 United Nations Children’s Fund, Stop Violence Against Children in Communities, UNICEF Malaysia Fact Sheet.
United Nations Children’s Fund, Statistics 2004, UNICEF Cambodia, Phnom Penh, 2007.
Overseas Advisory Council, Bureau of Diplomatic Security U.S. Department of State, Cambodia 2007 Crime & Safety Report: Overall
safety situation, 2007, p.1.
140 Street Profile, 2006, Köstler, Alice (Ed.). Street Children Profile, Friends, Phnom Penh, 2006.
Ibid., p. 45.

worker on the Friends ChildSafe hotline for counselling or direct assistance. If requested, the social worker will
meet the child wherever he or she is, day or night, and respond to the child’s immediate needs.

Many children also work and live on the streets in Neak Loeung, a busy transit town where goods and people
from Viet Nam and the Southeastern provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, cross the Mekong by ferry.
Sometimes children report violence to ferry workers and social workers from Damnok Toek - Goutte-d’eau, an
NGO offering drop-in, residential and day-care, vocational training, medical services and social services to
street children and those with special needs. The aforementioned reporting mechanisms available to street
children are by no means exhaustive; however, Friends – Mith Samlanth and Goutt-d’eau are two NGOs that
offer ways for street children to report violence and seek other social services. Aside from civil society, there is
no official response to the needs of street children, which is a State obligation under the Convention.

Interview with Köstler, Alice, ChidlSafe Project Manager, Phnom Penh, 25 October 2007.


• Establish appropriate reporting, referral, and follow-up services to child victims and their families to
prevent children from running away from home due to domestic violence.
• Improved monitoring and reporting are essential. Much violence against children is hidden, making it
difficult to secure commitments for change, let alone plan responses. The monitoring and reporting of
violence, including services such as hotlines that allow children to report cases of violence are essential.
Information that needs to be gathered and disaggregated by gender, age and ethnicity.
• Work with the State to show a commitment to eradicating violence in the home even though it is often
viewed as a private matter in which the government should not interfere. One part of that commitment
should be shown in the legal frame-work: Violence against children needs to be prohibited by law –
children should have at least the same legal protection from violence as adults, and the same access to
reporting mechanisms, referral, investigation, follow-up and judicial intervention if necessary.
• Homes with known violent family members should be prioritised for the provision of radios so that children
and women can easily call for help in case they are trapped in the house in a violent situation.

• Ensure that reports of any investigations of violence against children are made public (while maintaining
the right of the child victim/witness’ right to privacy) to build confidence in the system, and encourage
children, relatives, and neighbours to report violence against children.
• Village, commune authorities, and the Women and Children Focal Point, should involve children in the
design of appropriate child-sensitive reporting mechanisms that are safe, confidential, and easy to access.
• Expand peer education groups as children, teachers, and local authorities said in FGDs that children
report violence to their friends first. Ensure that the peer educator knows which adult in the village or
school to report the violence to and that they are not endangered in the process.
• Ensure that complaints received from health professionals, teachers, schools, children, parents and legal
guardians, NGOs, inter alia, receive a coordinated and multidisciplinary response that may or may not
involve law enforcement at the initial stages.
• Require the mandatory reporting of child abuse. Properly implemented reporting systems help authorities
to better understand the nature of violence suffered by children and to identify the most appropriate
measures to tackle problems. Among UNICEF programme countries, mandatory reporting of child abuse
in 2003 existed only in the Philippines and Malaysia.
• Supplement the surveillance of officially reported cases with population-based surveys that document
exposure to childhood violence and its lifelong consequences. Similarly, true understanding of fatal
violence against children can only be gained through comprehensive death registration, investigation and
reporting systems.
• Under the direction of the Ministry of Interior, a special training should be conducted to educate police on
the situation of children living and working on the streets, their rights to be protected from violence, and
the police officer’s role in ensuring protection and other basic rights. The training should encourage a
direct dialogue between police and children living and working on the streets.

• Address the acceptance of corporal punishment just as strongly as the administration of corporal
punishment. Data from surveys revealed that nearly 24 per cent of girls and 35 per cent of boys report
having been beaten by their teacher in school. “Children were mixed as to whether they thought it was
right or wrong but they seemed to agree that teachers have the right to beat children.” This widespread
acceptance creates barriers to children (and adults) reporting violence as the first step to reporting is the
identification of an act as violent.
• The MoE should quickly establish the guidelines for the official reporting mechanism that the draft
Education Law provides. Ensure that the guidelines are child friendly, systematic, and lead to the
collection of statistics of violence against children at school.

Ibid., p. 10.
Ibid., p. 14.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p.10.
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p.91.
Miles, G., Stop Violence Against Us! Summary Report I, 2005, Phnom Penh, p. 51.

• Designate one (or two) teachers, depending on the size of the school, as focal points to receive reports of
violence. Set up a place on the school grounds where children can visit these focal points without being
seen, or set up a “ballot” box in the latrines or other private place where children can drop in complaints of
violence in confidence. Set a deadline for responding to incidents of violence at school, and link the
school-designated focal points with the WCFP of the CCWC or Commune Council to inform her of
violence children report that is taking place at home.
• Establish boy and girl groups of peer educators who are trained to tell a designated adult any incidents of
violence that their classmates report to them. Ensure that the students are trained, and protected from
violence because of their role in the community reporting mechanism. Link the peer educators to the
WCFP of each commune for support and guidance.

• Establish confidential reporting mechanisms for children in workplaces including ombudspersons,
hotlines, peer counselling groups, and/or direct access to a focal point in the Department of Child Labour.
• Give child workers – in particular and child workers who have experienced violence on the job –
information on confidential reporting mechanisms available to child labourer victims of violence on the job.
In addition, parents should be provided information on compulsory education, any available financial
assistance to formal and non-formal education alternatives, and vocational training programmes as an
intervention and response mechanism to violence against children in the workplace.
• Give child workers access to helplines, focal points, or ombudspersons to lodge formal complaints or to
seek forms of victim support.
• With child labour prevalent in many countries of the region, the working group on violence against children
in work situations stressed the need for greater clarity on the meaning and characteristics of “violence in
the workplace, especially in the informal sector.” They recommended the development of concrete
protection procedures and more regulation of workplaces through the training of officials to ensure better
law enforcement and monitoring of abuses.

Residential care institutions

 All forms of alternative care involve risk for the child, including risk of further violence, exploitation and
other violations of the child’s rights. It is therefore important that States register and regulate all forms of
alternative care, with continuous monitoring of children’s placement and treatment, and with the full
participation of the child (UNSG).
 The State should allocate the resources needed to implement the reporting procedures outlined in the
Prakas on Minimum Standards on Residential Care for Children and the Policy on Alternative Care for
Children, including the training of social workers to monitor the implementation of the reporting process,
and increase the budget to hire additional personnel to ensure that State institutions have the capacity to
establish and manage the Incident Management Plan outlined in the Prakas on Minimum Standards on
Residential Care for Children and can establish effective and confidential reporting mechanisms.
 Law enforcement be strengthened with respect to violence against children in residential care institutions
ensuring adequate child-friendly procedures and mechanisms to deal with complaints of child abuse and
to provide children with prompt access to justice and to avoid impunity for offenders.
 Urgently adopt a programme to strengthen and increase alternative care opportunities for children, inter
alia through reinforcement of existing structures, improved training of staff and allocation of increased
resources to allow State social workers to monitor and provide regular periodic review of placement of
children in institutions establish formal procedure to guarantee the best interests of child in cases
placement, monitoring, reporting, investigation and follow-up on complaints of violence in all institutions.
 Conduct a nationwide baseline study of the knowledge, skills, and beliefs on child violence and opinions
of caregivers on what constitutes violence serious enough to be reported; create a training curriculum for
all caregivers in residential care institutions from the evidence gained in the baseline study and conduct a
training for all residential care institutions starting from those with the most capacity to the least. Ensure a
budget for training of the trainers, and in-service training.
 The MoSVY and relevant departments should set good criteria for the placement and care of children in
institutions and for alternative care. Provide better training for caregivers, providers and managers to

UNICEF EAPRO, EAPRO Consultation Concludes: Violence is not inevitable. Retrieved 5 December 2007 from
Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General, Geneva, 2006, p. 87.
Paragraph(s) 43 CRC/C/15/ADD.128 (CRC, 2000).
Paragraph(s) 39 CRC/C/15/ADD.164 (CRC, 2001).

understand child rights and for Cambodia to put in place better guidelines for registering, licensing,
accrediting and monitoring all state and private institutions.
 All institutions should be registered and subject to regular independent inspection/review of all institutions
and formal alternative care placements, with a statutory duty on inspectors to hear directly from
 All incidents of violence in schools, other institutions and alternative care should be recorded and centrally

Prisons and detention centres

• Work toward an independent judiciary with judicial reform measures so that the reporting of the situation
of children in conflict of the law is not affected by politics and corruption.
• Collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to ensure that children are not detained or incarcerated with adult
prisoners as per international norms and The Convention.
• Establish complaint procedures for children in detentions and prisons that are safe and confidential. Such
mechanisms can include a box in which children can lodge a complaint anonymously; or an
ombudsperson within the prison that is responsible for receiving, investigating, and following-up on child
abuse complaints. This person would also be responsible for the safety of the child while the investigation
is ongoing and for a sufficient time (to be determined) thereafter.
• Regularly monitor the levels of custodial sentencing for children – disaggregated by sex, age and ethnicity
– to inform rehabilitative responses.

UNICEF EAPRO, EAPRO Consultation Concludes: Violence is not inevitable. Retrieved 5 December 2007 from
Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Handbook for Parliamentarians N° 13: Eliminating Violence against
Children, IPU-UNICEF, New York, 2007, p. 28
Ibid., p. 28.
United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2005, p.10.


Reporting violence against children in Cambodia is not strong but mechanisms are improving through the
efforts of the State, civil society, local authorities and concerned UN agencies. The State has showed that it is
aware that reporting mechanisms for violence against children are insufficient and unclear with its recent
promulgation of legislation, namely the draft Education Law, the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence
and the Protection of Victims, and the Policy on Alternative Care of Children. However, the laws and prakas
do not have the resources needed to support the provisions given in legislation and in some cases lack clarity
in reporting lines and procedures. Although the social work profession is sorely understaffed and under-
resourced, the initiative between the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) and University of Washington
(USA) to educate several Cambodians at its School of Social Work, who will then return to train others at the
RUPP is a positive development that will professionalise social work, increase the quality of service, and
create an informed demand for child and family victim of violence support.

Although none of these measures are perfect or comprehensive, they do provide a foundation to build a
unified system for reporting child violence and responding to child victims. Drawing from the conclusions
made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a comprehensive reporting mechanism cannot stop with a
call for help. A call for help inadequately answered is akin to no call at all. If all social services band together,
Cambodia can establish a holistic reporting mechanism that includes reporting, referral, investigation,
treatment and follow-up and judicial intervention – only if necessary. No particular Super Agency can handle
such a comprehensive response to violence against children; thus, all stakeholders involved in child protection
must come together and collaborate – in every sense of the word – to ensure that the appropriate financial,
human resource, technical, and telecommunications resources are established, understood and used by all
involved in child protection.

NGO Centres Visited
• Cambodian Centre for the Protection of Children's Rights (CCPCR), Director, 26 September 2007.
• Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Lay Im, Human Rights Monitor, 4
October 2007, Prey Veng.
• Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Mom Lida, Human
Rights Monitor, 26 September 2007, Svay Rieng.
• Chab Dai (Joining Hands) Coalition, Phnom Penh 2007, Helen Sworn, 25 October, 2007.
• Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre (CWCC), Municipal Director, Nop Sarinsreyroth, 20 September 2007,
Phnom Penh.
• Friends-Mith Samlanh International, Phnom Penh, Alice Köstler, ChildSafe Project Manager, 25 October,
Phnom Penh 2007.
• Goutte d’eau, Executive Director, Sam Saovmmarith, 3 October 2007, Prey Veng Province.
• Rural Aid Organization (RAO), Svay Rieng Town, Ken Buchanon, Director, 26 September 2007.
• Rural Economic Development Association (REDA), Cent Sareoun, Coordinator of Orphaned and
Vulnerable Children, 26 September 2007, Svay Rieng.
• World Education International, Prey Veng, 4 October 2007.

Social Services Sector

• DoSVY Prevy Veng, Chief of Children’s Welfare, 4 October 2007.
• DoSVY, Svay Rieng, Deputy Director of DSAVY and Deputy Chief of the Office of Children's Welfare, 25
September 2007
• Neak Leung Operational Health District, 1 October 2007, Prey Veng Province.
• Svay Rieng Provincial Hospital, 26 September 2007.

Focus Group Discussions

SVAY Children Boys 11 Village Male 10 Commune Male 16 Teachers Male 20

RIENG Girls 16 Authorities Female 8 Authorities Female 16 Female 29
Total 17 Total 18 Total 32 Total 49

PREY Children Boys Village Male 15 Commune Male 9 Teachers Male 23

VENG Girls 13 Authorities Female 11 Authorities Female 5 Female 20
Total 27 Total 26 Total 14 Total 43

TOTAL Children 44 Village Authorities 44 Commune Authorities 46 Teachers 92

Literature and Web site Resources

Country Information
• Asian Development Bank, Country Assistance Plan: Cambodia, Social Infrastructure: Health. Retrieved
• Economic Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Cambodia, London, 2007.
• Pact Cambodia, Community Councils & Civil Society, Phnom Penh, 2004.
• United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Human Development Report 2006, UNDP, New
York, 2006.

Child Labour
• International Labour Organization, Helping hands or shackled lives? Understanding child domestic labour
and responses to it, ILO, Geneva, 2004.
• ILO/UNICEF/World Bank, Inter-Agency Report to the Royal Government of Cambodia: Understanding
Children’s Work: A challenge for growth and poverty reduction, Phnom Penh, 2006.
• United Nations Children’s Fund, Child Protection Sheets: Child labour, 2007.

Child Rights
• Child Rights Information Network -
• Inter-Parliamentary Union -
• United Nations Children’s Fund, A Report Card on Gender Parity and Primary Education: Number 2,
UNICEF, New York, 2005.

• United Nations Children’s Fund, A Region Where Every Child Counts: Child Protection, UNICEF EAPRO,
Bangkok, 2005.
• United Nations Children’s Fund Cambodia -
• United Nations Children’s Fund –

Social Services (Cambodia)

• Ashby, Janet, Multi-Stakeholder Analysis on Authorized Health Examination Certificate Form Utilization
for the Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children Project, UNICEF
Cambodia, Phnom Penh, 2006.
• Das, K, Dilip, Palmiotto, Michael. The World Police Encyclopaedia, Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group,
2006, New York.

Street Children
• Köstler, Alice (Ed.). Street Children Profile, Friends International, Phnom Penh, 2006.

• -
• UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region -

Violence against Children and Women

• Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Handbook for Parliamentarians N° 13:
Eliminating Violence against Children, IPU-UNICEF, New York, 2007.
• Miles, Greg, Stop Violence against Us! Summary Report I and II, Tearfund Cambodia, Phonm Penh,
• National Institute of Public Health and National Institute of Statistics, Cambodia Demographic and Health
Survey 2005, Phnom Penh, 2006.
• Pinheiro, Paulo, Sérgio, World Report on Violence against Children, United Nations Secretary-General,
Geneva, 2006.
• Violence against Women: A Baseline Survey, final report Cambodia 2005,
• United Nations Children’s Fund, Alternative Care for Children without Primary Caregivers in Tsunami-
Affected Countries, UNICEF EAPRO, Bangkok, 2006.
• United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF Cambodia Child Protection: Justice for Children: Fact sheet,
Phnom Penh, 2007.
• United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence -