Eight children, aged 3 months to 10 years, were in the care of a “safe center” on Tuesday*after three women were accused of forcing them to beg for money on Phnom Penh’s streets, officials said.
The women, related to each child as either a mother or an aunt, were arrested on Monday near an intersection in Tuol Kok district’s Phsar Doeum Kor commune, said Keo Thea, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking bureau.
Police believe one of the women had hired the 3-month-old baby to be used for begging and forced the other children to beg by hitting them, Mr. Thea said.
Each child could earn 5,000 to 80,000 riel, or $1.25 to $20, per day, he said.
“If the mother forces the child to beg or hires the child to beg, then we will enforce the law,” Mr. Thea said.
Mao Ouk, 48, Sam Kun, 43, and Tey Oun, 18, were accused of “inciting minors to beg,” he said.
If convicted, the women face up to a year in prison and fines of 100,000 to 2 million riel, or about $25 to $500.
The eight children were sent to the municipal department of social affairs and the three women have been detained at the Phnom Penh anti-human trafficking bureau since their arrest, Mr. Thea said on Tuesday. The women would be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today for questioning, he said.
The women told police they had arrived in Phnom Penh from Kandal province’s Sa’ang district in recent weeks or months, he said.
Sorn Sophal, director of the municipal social affairs department, confirmed that the eight children were originally brought to the department and were then taken to a safe center.
He declined to say if the facility was state-run, citing the need to ensure the children’s safety.
“We sent them to a safe center,” he said.
If the children’s parents were found to have forced their children to beg, the minors would be removed from their parents’ care and provided with an education, he added.
In January, authorities rounded up 48 homeless children off Phnom Penh streets and sent them to NGOs, Mr. Sophal said at the time.
The children and 10 homeless adults had been walking along the street and begging for money, he said.
soumy@cambodiadaily.com*
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