Over the last several months, the AIM SWAT Team together with the Siem Reap police in Cambodia rescued 30 children who were being exploited at brick factories. This was a result of our involvement with the case of a 9-year-old girl who tragically lost her arm in an accident with a machine while working at a Kandal province brick factory and it was clear to us then that the sheer number of children working at these factories in appalling conditions demanded a response.
We are very grateful for Operation Underground Railroad’s shared passion towards the issue of children being exploited in these factories, and for their partnership in carrying out this operation.
When clear evidence of exploitation was presented, our team worked with the families of the children to help them exit the factory jobs and receive appropriate care. Officers of the Siem Reap AHTJPP, Agape International Missions’ SWAT Team members, local police and local authority officials took part in the official inspections.
This was the first time any large-scale action against brick factories has been taken in Cambodia.
Our first operation resulted in 14 children being rescued – praise God! Though as knowledge of what we were doing grew, key individuals with vested interests in the factories made efforts to disrupt the process.
During our 3rd operation, we learned that a young girl we rescued had been a victim of numerous rapes at knifepoint inside the brick factory by her brother-in-law. Her offender has now been arrested and remanded to prison for aggravated rape charges, and the AIM SWAT Legal team will represent the victim in the upcoming court proceedings.
Despite difficult obstacles along the way, our team was diligent in their efforts to remove 30 children from dangerous and hazardous working conditions over the course of 5 months. They are now safe, healthy and are either studying at school or receiving vocational training; opportunities that otherwise they would have never had.
In addition to the rescues, our team, police, and government social workers have learned a great deal and are motivated to continue helping the children still working within these factories. In fact, several complaints were officially recorded by police who are processing cases for these families and children that we will of course continue to support. Our work has even inspired police in neighboring provinces to want to take action against brick factories in their respective jurisdictions.
The operation also caught the attention of government officials in Phnom Penh, so we proposed a plan to His Excellency, Lieutenant General Chiv Phally, and the Director of the Cambodian AHTJP Police to work together with the Ministry of Labor to conduct unannounced inspections throughout the country and to take appropriate measures when children are found to be working in the factories. His Excellency has agreed to discuss the proposal with the necessary government ministries.
We are so excited about the impact of this operation; because we are in a unique position to help these children, we hope to maintain Operation Innocence’s momentum to combat exploitation within brick factories and help rescue more children in need.
Again, we thank O.U.R. for their invaluable support in making this possible and fueling the necessary change for generations to come!