Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia

Child Labor and Forced Labor Reports

Cambodia

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor:

Moderate Advancement

In 2017, Cambodia made a moderate advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. The government released the Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children, including child labor. In addition, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth repatriated approximately 500 child laborers back to Thailand and provided training to law enforcement officials on identifying human trafficking victims, including children. In addition, the Ministry of Education conducted trafficking-in-person awareness training for education officials and teachers in six provinces. However, children in Cambodia engage in the worst forms of child labor, including forced labor in brick making and commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Due to challenges in accessing basic education and the absence of a compulsory education requirement, children are vulnerable to involvement in the worst forms of child labor. Inadequate resources and training also hamper the Labor Inspectorate's capacity to enforce child labor laws, especially in rural areas and in high-risk sectors.

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Children in Cambodia engage in the worst forms of child labor, including forced labor in brickmaking and in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. (1; 2) Table 1 provides key indicators on children's work and education in Cambodia.

Table 1. Statistics on Children's Work and Education

Children

Age

Percent

Working (% and population)

5 to 14

8.1 (236,831)

Working children by sector

5 to 14

 

Agriculture

 

81.9

Industry

 

8.0

Services

 

10.1

Attending School (%)

5 to 14

81.6

Combining Work and School (%)

7 to 14

6.1

Primary Completion Rate (%)

 

92.4

Source for primary completion rate: Data from 2016, published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2018. (3)
Source for all other data: Understanding Children’s Work Project’s analysis of statistics from Socio-Economic Survey (CSES), 2014. Data on working children, school attendance, and children combining work and school are not comparable with data published in the previous version of this report because of differences between surveys used to collect the data. (4)

 

Based on a review of available information, Table 2 provides an overview of children's work by sector and activity.

Table 2. Overview of Children's Work by Sector and Activity

Sector/Industry

Activity

Agriculture

Fishing, including deep-sea† and night fishing† (5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10)

Peeling shrimp and shucking crabs (10; 11; 6)

Production of tobacco, cassava, rubber, and rice (12; 7)

Growing, cutting, carrying, and spraying pesticides† on sugarcane (13; 14; 15; 16)

Logging† for the production of timber (8)

Industry

Making bricks,† including feeding clay into brick-making machines, drying bricks, transporting bricks to the oven,† and loading bricks onto trucks (5; 12; 17; 18; 19; 2; 8)

Production of salt (12; 20)

Construction,† including operating transportation equipment† (5; 21; 8)

Production of textiles, including bleaching,† dyeing,† and finishing with chemicals;† garments; and footwear (5; 22; 23; 24)

Production of alcoholic beverages† (5; 8)

Work in slaughterhouses† for the production of meat† (5; 8)

Manufacturing of wood and metal† products (5; 12)

Services

Domestic work (5; 9)

Work as security guards† and in entertainment,† including as bartenders,† masseurs,† dancers,† and waiters† (5)

Street work, including begging, vending, scavenging, and collecting garbage (12; 21; 9; 25; 26)

Work as garbage pickers in dumpsites (27; 28)

Categorical Worst Forms of Child Labor‡

Commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (12; 1; 29; 9)

Street vending, sometimes as a result of human trafficking (25; 8; 9; 30)

Use in illicit activities, including drug trafficking (21)

Forced labor in the production of bricks (2; 21)

† Determined by national law or regulation as hazardous and, as such, relevant to Article 3(d) of ILO C. 182.
‡ Child labor understood as the worst forms of child labor per se under Article 3(a)–(c) of ILO C. 182.

 

Children are trafficked domestically, from rural to urban areas, and internationally, to countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, for commercial sexual exploitation. (9; 1) In Cambodian brick factories, some children engage in forced labor, including in hazardous conditions, to offset family debt to employers. (2; 31; 8; 12)

Although the Education Law establishes free basic education, children may be required to pay school-related fees, such as for building maintenance, which are prohibitive for some families. (21; 32; 33; 12) Other barriers to education include limited transportation to schools in remote areas, lack of drinking water and toilet facilities in some schools, language barriers, and an insufficient number of teachers. These barriers particularly affect ethnic minority children and children with disabilities. (12; 8)

Cambodia has ratified all key international conventions concerning child labor (Table 3).

Table 3. Ratification of International Conventions on Child Labor

Convention

Ratification

ILO C. 138, Minimum Age

ILO C. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor

UN CRC

UN CRC Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict

UN CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons

 

The government has established laws and regulations related to child labor (Table 4). However, gaps exist in Cambodia’s legal framework to adequately protect children from child labor, including a minimum age for work and prohibiting the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Table 4. Laws and Regulations on Child Labor

Standard

Meets International Standards: Yes/No

Age

Legislation

Minimum Age for Work

No

15

Article 177 of the Labor Law (34)

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

Yes

18

Articles 173 and 177 of the Labor Law; Regulation on the Prohibition of Hazardous Child Labor; Articles 339–340 of the Penal Code (34; 35; 36)

Identification of Hazardous Occupations or Activities Prohibited for Children

Yes

 

Article 2 of the Regulation on the Prohibition of Hazardous Child Labor (35)

Prohibition of Forced Labor

Yes

 

Articles 15–16 of the Labor Law; Articles 10, 12, 15–17, and 19 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation; Article 80 of Law on Juvenile Justice (34; 37; 38)

Prohibition of Child Trafficking

Yes

 

Articles 10, 12, 15–17, and 19 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation (37)

Prohibition of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

No

 

Articles 15, 28, 33–37, and 41 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation; Articles 284, 289, and 346 of the Penal Code (36; 37)

Prohibition of Using Children in Illicit Activities

Yes

 

Article 345 of the Penal Code; Articles 3 and 47 of the Law on Control of Drugs (36; 39)

Prohibition of Military Recruitment

 

 

 

State Compulsory

Yes

18

The Law on General Statutes for the Military Personnel of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (40)

State Voluntary

Yes

18

Article 42 of the Law on General Statutes for the Military Personnel of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (40)

Non-state

No

 

 

Compulsory Education Age

No

 

 

Free Public Education

Yes

 

Article 31 of the Education Law (33)

 

The Labor Law's minimum age protections do not apply to domestic or household workers, which leaves children vulnerable to child labor in this occupation. (34; 41; 42) Laws do not sufficiently prohibit commercial sexual exploitation of children, as the use or offering of a child for pornographic performances is not criminally prohibited. In addition, laws do not prohibit the recruitment of children under age 18 into non-state armed groups. (21)

Education is free, but not compulsory, through grade nine. (33) The lack of compulsory schooling makes children under age 15 particularly vulnerable to child labor because they are not required to be in school but are not yet legally permitted to work. (34; 33)

The government has established institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of laws and regulations on child labor (Table 5). However, gaps exist within the authority of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) that may hinder adequate enforcement of their child labor laws.

Table 5. Agencies Responsible for Child Labor Law Enforcement

Organization/Agency

Role

Department of Child Labor, Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT)

Enforce child-related provisions of the Labor Law, and train Commune Committees for Women and Children that oversee local child labor monitoring systems. (43) Includes 24 MOLVT interdepartmental inspection teams. (44)

Cambodian National Police Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department

Enforce laws against human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children, in collaboration with municipal and provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection offices. Commanded by the Ministry of the Interior. (21; 45) Field complaints about human trafficking, which can be filed through the anti-human trafficking hotline. (29)

Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation

Accompany the police on investigations, and refer victims of child labor to NGOs for services. (6)

 

Labor Law Enforcement

In 2017, labor law enforcement agencies in Cambodia took actions to combat child labor (Table 6). However, gaps exist within the authority of the MOLVT that may hinder adequate labor law enforcement, including training on hazardous work regulations.

Table 6. Labor Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Labor Law Enforcement

2016

2017

Labor Inspectorate Funding

$100,000 (8)

$100,000 (8)

Number of Labor Inspectors

499 (21)

520 (8)

Inspectorate Authorized to Assess Penalties

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Training for Labor Inspectors

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Training on New Laws Related to Child Labor

N/A (21)

N/A (8)

Refresher Courses Provided

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Number of Labor Inspections Conducted

10,985 (21)

3,563 (8)

Number Conducted at Worksites

6,518 (21)

3,563 (8)

Number of Child Labor Violations Found

230 (21)

240 (8)

Number of Child Labor Violations for Which Penalties Were Imposed

23 (21)

42 (8)

Number of Child Labor Penalties Imposed that Were Collected

Unknown (21)

34 (8)

Routine Inspections Conducted

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Routine Inspections Targeted

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Unannounced Inspections Permitted

No (21)

Yes (8)

 Unannounced Inspections Conducted

N/A (21)

Yes (8)

Complaint Mechanism Exists

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Labor Authorities and Social Services

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

 

In 2017, the Department of Child Labor (DOCL) received $10,000 in funding for child labor enforcement operations, as well as for the implementation of the National Social Protection Strategy. (8) The DOCL employs 33 inspectors based in Phnom Penh and 1 child labor inspector in each of Cambodia's 25 provinces; however, the department did not conduct any child labor inspections during the first half of the year. (8; 46) When child labor inspections do occur, they are concentrated in the city of Phnom Penh, as well as in the provincial, formal-sector factories producing goods for export, such as textiles and garments, rather than in rural areas where the majority of child laborers work. (5; 22; 47)

The MOLVT has established regulations on hazardous work for children in several sectors, including in agriculture, brickmaking, fishing, tobacco, and cassava production; however, inadequate training limits the capacity of local  authorities to enforce these regulations. (43; 48; 49; 8) For example, MOLVT inspectors visited various brick factories but found no child labor violations, despite numerous reports of children working in brick factories. (50; 2) In addition, sanctions for labor violations, including those related to child labor, are rarely imposed in accordance with the law. (44; 47)

Criminal Law Enforcement

In 2017, criminal law enforcement agencies in Cambodia took actions to combat child labor (Table 7). However, gaps exist within the operations of the criminal enforcement agencies that may hinder adequate criminal law enforcement, including the lack of information regarding enforcement actions.

Table 7. Criminal Law Enforcement Efforts Related to Child Labor

Overview of Criminal Law Enforcement

2016

2017

Training for Investigators

 

 

Initial Training for New Employees

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Training on New Laws Related to the Worst Forms of Child Labor

N/A (21)

N/A (8)

Refresher Courses Provided

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

Number of Investigations

Unknown (21)

Unknown (8)

Number of Violations Found

46 (21)

46 (8)

Number of Prosecutions Initiated

Unknown (21)

Unknown (8)

Number of Convictions

Unknown (21)

Unknown (8)

Reciprocal Referral Mechanism Exists Between Criminal Authorities and Social Services

Yes (21)

Yes (8)

 

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth (MOSAVY), in collaboration with Winrock International, conducted 2 trainings for 105 MOSAVY enforcement officials and NGOs, Deputy Governors, Communal Councilors, and teachers with training. MOSAVY also organized 3 trainings on the identification of trafficking victims for 202 participants in Kratie, Svay Rieng, and Kompong Speu. (8) However, the Ministry of Interior has not yet introduced anti-human trafficking training into the curriculum of the Cambodian National Police academies. (51; 46)

According to the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, police rescued 106 children engaged in the worst forms of child labor in the first nine months of 2017. In addition, MOSAVY repatriated approximately 500 Thai child laborers along the Thailand border in the Banteay Meanchey province back to Thailand, as well as 12 child human trafficking victims to Vietnam. (8)

In Cambodia, judges have discretion to determine whether perpetrators of crimes related child labor will be imprisoned or fined, as well as the amount of the fine. In part, due to high levels of corruption within the judicial system, the penalties imposed are not uniformly administered and do not adhere to the parameters prescribed by law. (6; 52; 53)

The government has established mechanisms to coordinate its efforts to address child labor (Table 8). However, gaps exist that hinder the effective coordination of efforts to address child labor, including the lack of a decree to allow the National Committee on Child Labor of the Cambodian National Council for Children to begin operations.

Table 8. Key Mechanisms to Coordinate Government Efforts on Child Labor

Coordinating Body

Role and Description

National Committee on Child Labor of the Cambodian National Council for Children

Coordinate child labor issues at the national level. Ensure that projects and programs follow the National Plan of Action on child labor. Includes concerned ministries, businesses, trade unions, and NGOs. Oversee Provincial Committees on the Protection of Child Rights and Provincial Committees on Child Labor. (54; 8)

Commune Committees for Women and Children

Advisory entities that raise awareness about child labor regulations, promote school attendance, collaborate with provincial labor departments to monitor for child labor violations, and refer children at risk of or engaged in child labor to social protection services. Led by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training’s Department of Child Labor. (21; 43; 55)

National Committee for Counter Trafficking

Coordinate government, NGOs, civil society, and private sector efforts to address human trafficking. Focuses on children’s affairs, international cooperation, justice, law enforcement, migration, prevention, protection, recovery, reintegration, and repatriation. (56) Chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Ministry of Interior, with 4 vice chair ministries and 14 participating ministries. Oversees Provincial Committees for Counter Trafficking in each province. (46; 56)

 

In 2017, the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) provided to 1,617 participants 39 trainings on children’s rights, child labor exploitation obligations under ILO C. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, and child sex tourist prevention. The NCCT coordinated further trainings with MOSAVY and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. However, the government has yet to issue a decree authorizing the National Committee on Child Labor of the Cambodian National Council for Children to begin operations and adequately function as a coordinating mechanism. (8) In addition, the Commune Committees for Women and Children are underfunded and have insufficient technical capacity for adequate social protection services to children involved in or at risk of child labor. (55)

The government has established policies related to child labor (Table 9). However, policy gaps exist that hinder efforts to address child labor, including with integrating child labor elimination and protection strategies into relevant policies.

Table 9. Key Policies Related to Child Labor‡

Policy

Description

Action Plan to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Children (2017-2021)†

Aims to prevent and respond to violence against children, including the worst forms of child labor. (57)

National Plan of Action on Worst Forms of Child Labor (2016–2025)†

Aims to build the capacity of law enforcement officers, strengthen the enforcement of relevant laws, raise public awareness of child labor issues, and enhance child labor monitoring systems at the community level. (21)

National Policies on the Elimination of Child Labor in the Fisheries Sector

Two policies address child labor in the fisheries sector, including the National Plan of Action to Tackle Child Labor in Inland and Coastal Fisheries and the Action Plan for Gender Equality Promotion and Child Labor Elimination in the Fisheries Sector. Seek to prevent and withdraw children from child labor and promote increased access to education and livelihood opportunities. (58; 59) During the reporting period, conducted awareness raising activities to help local fishers and families understand policy guidelines. (60)

Policy on Childhood Development and Protection in the Agricultural Sector (2016–2020)

Establishes a strategic framework to protect children working in the agricultural sector. Seeks to prevent and reduce child labor, especially in hazardous work, and improve agricultural vocational training for youth ages 15 through 17. (7) In 2017, the government worked with international organizations to conduct workshops and trainings for agricultural officials. (60)

National Plan of Action on the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labor, and Sexual Exploitation (2014–2018)

Aims to prevent and eliminate all forms of human trafficking, including by strengthening criminal law enforcement to protect children from exploitation in entertainment venues, integrating anti-human trafficking and child safety issues into the public school curriculum, and promoting the inclusion of vulnerable children in both formal and informal education. (56) During the reporting period, the government lacked the financial and human resources necessary to collect data on policy implementation. (60)

The Education Strategic Plan (2014–2018)

Seeks to ensure equitable access to education and improve the education system's response to human trafficking and child labor. (61) During the reporting period, provided scholarships to poor students at primary and secondary schools, and increased overall enrollments in primary schools. (60)

National Social Protection Strategy (2017-2021)

Aims to expand access to healthcare, nutrition, and educational services and promote the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. (62; 63) In July 2017, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth launched a policy framework that outlines guidance for all government social assistance, including school feeding and vocational training programs. (45; 8)

† Policy was approved during the reporting period.
‡ The government had other policies that may have addressed child labor issues or had an impact on child labor. (64; 65; 66; 67; 68)

 

The government has not specifically included child labor elimination and prevention strategies in the National Employment Policy and the Multilingual Education National Action Plan. (69; 70)

In 2017, the government funded and participated in programs that include the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor (Table 10). However, gaps exist in these social programs, including the lack of access to social protection safety nets in rural communities.

Table 10. Key Social Programs to Address Child Labor‡

Program

Description

Cambodia Countering Trafficking in Persons (2015–2019)

$8.5 million, USAID-funded, 4-year program implemented by Winrock International to strengthen the capacity of government and community stakeholders to prevent human trafficking, protect at-risk populations, and increase the number of successful prosecutions of perpetrators. (71; 72) In 2017, established national guidelines for identifying and referring human trafficking victims and assisted 725 human trafficking victims. (60)

Better Factories Cambodia†

USDOL, the government of Cambodia, Garment Manufacturers in Cambodia, and the ILO-funded program to monitor garment factories’ compliance with national and international labor standards, including those related to child labor. (73; 8) In 2017, collaborated with garment manufacturers to investigate suspected child labor cases, which resulted in the confirmation and remediation of eight cases. (74; 75) Additional information is available on the program’s website.

UN WFP Country Program† (2011–2018)

Multi-government and private sector-funded, 8-year program implemented in collaboration with the Government of Cambodia that includes a school feeding program for children in need. In 2017, provided food assistance, although funding fell by 45%. (76)

† Program is funded by the Government of Cambodia.
‡ The government had other social programs that may have included the goal of eliminating or preventing child labor, including its worst forms. (77)

 

Many poor households in rural communities lack access to a social protection safety net, which increases the vulnerability of children to involvement in child labor as a means to supplement family income. (78)

Based on the reporting above, suggested actions are identified that would advance the elimination of child labor in Cambodia (Table 11).

Table 11. Suggested Government Actions to Eliminate Child Labor

Area

Suggested Action

Year(s) Suggested

Legal Framework

Ensure that the law's minimum age provisions apply to children working as domestic workers.

2009 – 2017

Criminally prohibit the offering and use of a child for pornographic performances.

2015 – 2017

Criminally prohibit the recruitment of children under 18 by non-state armed groups.

2016 – 2017

Institute a compulsory education age that is at a minimum equal to the minimum age for work.

2009 – 2017

Enforcement

Provide sufficient resources for the enforcement of child labor laws to ensure that inspections are conducted throughout the country, especially in rural areas and in the informal sector.

2010 – 2017

Build the capacity of local-level authorities to enforce child labor regulations, including in agriculture, tobacco, cassava, and fishing.

2012 – 2017

Collect and publicly release data on the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for crimes related to child labor.

2015 – 2017

Increase anti-human trafficking training for law enforcement officers, including at Cambodian National Police academies.

2014 – 2017

Establish and uniformly administer penalties for violations of laws on child labor, including its worst forms, in accordance with the parameters prescribed by law.

2009 – 2017

Coordination

Issue the relevant decree to enable the National Committee on Child Labor of the Cambodian National Council for Children to begin functioning.

2017

Increase funding and enhance training for Commune Committees for Women and Children to enhance social services provision for children involved in or at risk of child labor.

2016 – 2017

Government Policies

Publish information about the implementation of the National Plan of Action on the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labor, and Sexual Exploitation.

2017

Integrate child labor elimination and prevention strategies into the Multilingual Education National Action Plan and the National Employment Policy.

2015 – 2017

Social Programs

Increase access to free basic education by eliminating unofficial school fees and addressing issues related to limited transportation, inadequate school infrastructure, insufficient number of teachers, and language barriers.

2013 – 2017

Expand social protection safety nets in rural areas to ensure that poor children and their families have access to services that may mitigate the risk of involvement in child labor.

2016 – 2017

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2. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO). Built on Slavery: Debt Bondage and Child Labour in Cambodia's Brick Factories. Phnom Penh. December 2016. https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports/files/221LICADHO_Built_On_Slavery_Report_ENG.pdf.

3. UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Gross intake ratio to the last grade of primary education, both sexes (%). Accessed: March 3, 2018. http://data.uis.unesco.org/. For more information, please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.

4. UCW. Analysis of Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Statistics from National Household or Child Labor Surveys. Original data from Socio-Economic Survey (CSES), 2014. Analysis received January 12, 2018. Please see "Children's Work and Education Statistics: Sources and Definitions" in the Reference Materials section of this report.

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6. U.S. Embassy- Phnom Penh. Reporting, January 28, 2013.

7. Government of Cambodia, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Policy and Strategic Framework on Childhood Development and Protection in the Agriculture Sector 2016–2020. Phnom Penh. August 2015. [Source on file].

8. U.S. Embassy- Phnom Penh. Reporting, January 17, 2018.

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11. U.S. Embassy- Phnom Penh. Reporting, December 18, 2015.

12. UCW. The twin challenges of child labour and educational marginalisation in the South-East and East Asia region: An overview. Rome. May 2014. http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Informationresources/WCMS_IPEC_PUB_25520/lang--en/index.htm.

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21. U.S. Embassy- Phnom Penh. Reporting, January 13, 2017.

22. Apparel Resources. "Child labor- a non-issue in Cambodian apparel industry, asserts Labor Minister." apparelresources.com. June 17, 2015. [Source on file].

23. HRW. "Work Faster or Get Out" - Labor Rights Abuses in Cambodia's Garment Industry. New York. March 12, 2015. http://features.hrw.org/features/HRW_2015_reports/Cambodia_Garment_Workers/index.html.

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25. Suy, Pav, and Jonathan Cox. "Child Labor Ring Busted." The Khmer Times. September 22, 2015. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/16047/child-labor-ring-busted/.

26. Pech Southeary. Woman Charged With Abusing Child Beggars, Khmer Times. July 5, 2017. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/40001/woman-charged-with-abusing-child-beggars/.

27. Crowder, N. "Tourists or voyeurs? Outsiders gaze at child labor in Cambodia's largest landfill." The Washington Post, Washington, DC. February 26, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2015/02/26/tourists-or-voyeurs-outsiders-gaze-at-child-labor-in-cambodias-largest-landfill/.

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