Cambodia: Blood Bricks project looks into modern slavery & debt bondage in the brick-making industry; labour ministry commits to investigate

The Blood Bricks project looks into the connection of climate change and modern slavery in the brick-making industry in Cambodia. 

The research is ran by Royal Holloway, University of London and is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the Department for International Development (ESRC-DFID) Development Frontiers Research Fund. 

This Story follows the developments of this project. Updates are linked below.

 

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Article
8 September 2019

Cambodia: Govt vows to end child labour in brick industry by 2020; CSOs call for solutions to address poverty as root cause

Author: Leonie Kijewski, VOANews

"Cambodia Launches Campaign to End Child Labor in Brick Industry," 07 September 2019

Cambodia has launched a campaign to end child labor in the brick industry by 2020, a move industry observers cautiously welcome while expressing doubts the goal will be achieved, and calling for more structural changes.

The industry drew international attention last year when a report, Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change from Cambodia, asserted poverty, often caused by climate change, forced tens of thousands of Cambodians into debt bondage at brick kilns...

The government said... that the director of the Labor Ministry's Child Labor Department, Veng Heang, had started the campaign... in cooperation with local authorities.

One of the authors of the Blood Bricks report, Laurie Parsons, welcomed the initiative, saying child labor was still prevalent in the industry and estimating that the number of children working in brick factories ranged “in the thousands.”

He welcomed the initiative but called just focusing on child labor a “symptom-led approach” not likely to address the root causes of the problem. He said that poverty pushes people into debt-bondage at the brick kilns, poor working conditions, and brick kiln contracts barring workers from employment elsewhere.

The ministry remained evasive, however, about what concrete measures would be taken to combat child labor. Asked what the government would do once the inspection was done, ministry spokesman Heng Sour said: “I would like to inform you that our labor inspectors are still on their mission to inspect all brick factories across the country, which will conclude in late October. We will publish the report in this November.”

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Article
12 November 2018

Cambodia: Blood Bricks team welcomes gov't commitment to investigate & calls for action on modern slavery & debt bondage concerns

Author: Block Bricks team

Note: Below are excepts from the letter sent by the The Blood Bricks team to H.E. Ith Sam Heng, Cambodia's Minister of Labour and Vocational Training.

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In response to our newly published report “Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change from Cambodia” , we are pleased to hear that the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has raised concerns about debt-bonded labour in the brick-making industry. We welcome the opportunity to engage with the Cambodian government on this matter.

While child labour is an important problem that our research identifies, the focus of our study is on the reasons why families become indebted, and the role of unregulated microfinance, climate change, and other factors which push families into debt-bonded labour.

Moving forward, our hope is that dialogue between Royal Holloway researchers and the Cambodian government could be productive in shaping plans for the Decent Work Programme for Cambodia 2019-2023 which we understand is a key government priority at moment. Key recommendations from our report we would welcome discussing include:

Increased social protection and livelihood support...

Increased regulation of the microfinance sector...

Enforcement of Cambodia's Labour Law and Trafficking Law in curbing debt-bonded labour...

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Article
12 November 2018

Cambodia: Exponential growth in infrastructure development magnifies debt bondage & modern slavery in brick-making industry

Author: Sheith Khidhir, The ASEAN Post

"Modern slavery's invisible whip," 12 November 2018

A recent Blood Bricks research project has led to a photo exhibition exposing debt-bonded labour in the brick making industry. While the photos show glimpses of just what life may be like for adults and children forced to work under horrific conditions, they also seek to prove that modern slavery should be looked at as a structural problem fostered by global commerce and growth.

The Blood Bricks research project was conducted by Laurie Parsons, a researcher at the Royal Holloway, University of London...

Parsons concerns about modern slavery seems to have its roots in the issue of supply and demand. She puts forth the argument that it is in fact the West which is propagating modern slavery in less developed parts of the world like in Cambodia, and that it is doing so due to demand for infrastructure and development in the country.

According to Knight Frank’s Cambodia Real Estate Highlights for the second half of 2017, 7,413 units of condominiums across 34 projects were recorded. This is an increase of 55 percent compared to the first half of the year.

If imports from the developed world are indeed propagating the modern slavery that allegedly exists in Cambodia’s kilns, then the European Union’s (EU) threat to suspend its Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal with the ASEAN member state could, ironically, become a saving grace for many Cambodian brick-makers. However, while the EU remains Cambodia’s largest trading partner, several countries including China and more recently, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), may nullify the effects of the EU pulling out...

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Note: To learn more about the Blood Bricks project, you can visit their website.

 

 

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Article
12 November 2018

Cambodia: Labour ministry commits to investigate abuses in brick-making industry

Author: Phnom Penh Post

"Ministry to probe child labour," 19 October 2018

The Ministry of Labour says it will investigate the claims of a Royal Holloway, University of London research team’s report alleging modern slavery in Cambodia’s brick kilns, said Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng.

The report entitled Blood Bricks: Untold Stories of Modern Slavery and Climate Change in Cambodia claimed that poor Cambodians working as brick makers were trapped in debt bondage and had fallen into modern slavery.

This, it said was because the demand of brick makers is skyrocketing as the kingdom’s construction sector is booming with foreign investments.

In Phnom Penh on Thursday, Minister Ith Sam Heng said during a workshop entitled Decent Work Programme for Cambodia 2019-2023 that the ministry will start investigating the circumstances and locations mentioned in the report.

The report said brick kilns employed all types of workers, including children, due to rapid development in hotels, office buildings, factories, condominiums, and other projects in urgent need of bricks.

Chheang Suyheang, the president of two brick kiln associations representing more than 100 factories in Kandal province, denied the existence of child labour in brick factories.

“There is no impact on them. Their hands and feet do not fall into the machines or [get] cut off like before because there is no child labour in the brick [industry] and we do not allow minors to work because the organisation has strengthened,” he said.

Suyheang acknowledged that every “brick family” has borrowed money from the kiln owners. This is because they can quickly pay off their bank and microfinance loans.

...[T]he ministry issued a statement warning it will mete out fines and take other legal action against brick kilns which use child labour or commit other violations.

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