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PHNOM PENH – Cambodian children continue to face physical, emotional, sexual, and economic violence caused by alcohol users, which threatens their lives, growth, and development.
Khieu Borei, secretary of state of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and vice president of the Cambodian National Council for Children, said that alcohol or drug users represent a big threat to children and young people. Society has to pay closer attention to it.
She emphasized that many children have to endure the violent behavior of a relative due to the effects of alcohol.
Speaking on Sept. 9 at a Consultation Workshop on the Impact of Alcohol, Borei said that to prevent and protect children affected by alcohol, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, and the Ministry of Health are discussing a minimum age under which it would be illegal to consume alcohol.
“Cambodia ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on October 15, 1992. After ratification, the government must respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children in Cambodia,” said Borei.
Nevertheless, no minimum age to drink alcohol is defined by law, while advertisements for beers are ubiquitous in the public space. A first draft law, processed in 2015 by the Ministry of Health, proposed to set a minimum age to drink alcohol at 21. But it has yet to be passed.
During the workshop, such ministries committed to speeding up the adoption of the draft law on “Control of Alcohol Products”.
Members of the Cambodian National Council for Children, representatives of national and international organizations, and youth networks who attended the workshop stressed that the promotion of alcohol in various forms is having a significant impact on children. They advocate promoting more accurate information about alcohol consumption and its side effects.
To protect children from alcoholic relatives and prevent teenagers to fall into alcoholism, the participants want the government to implement five restrictive measures which aim to reduce alcohol consumption.
These proposed measures would be: banning all forms of advertising, establishing the age at which people can drink or buy alcohol, determining the locations where to sell and consume alcohol, setting these places away from children’s gathering places, and making them unattractive to children.
According to UNICEF Cambodia, one in two children has experienced severe beating, one in four has suffered from emotional abuse, and one in 20 has been sexually assaulted. If alcohol is not the only reason that explains such behaviors, it is often part of it.
The use of alcohol and drugs has had several side effects, including physical and mental health, mental retardation, and dementia, Khieu Borei added.
Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Sam Sopich for Cambodianess.