ChildSafe International: Country Specific Information
child rights cambodia prostitution
12 years old, female — I want to be a student, help my parents' work and want to skydiving around the world (Vientianne-Lao PDR).

ChildSafe International - Country Specific Information

Depending on the situation of each country, the types and forms of abuse children face vary. It is important to consider the state of development a country is in, the culture as well as the development of tourism and the way the local government enforces its laws in order to understand which dangers children face.

[Cambodia][Lao PDR] - [Thailand] - [Indonesia]


Country Information: Cambodia's population is 13.6 million (2005 est).

Children/Youth in Cambodia: 61 per cent of the population is under the age of 18 (Cambodia Inter-Censal Population Survey 2004).

Under-5 mortality rate: 143 death/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Street Children in Cambodia: Everyday in Cambodia there are approximately 14,000 to 24,000 street children. In the capital of Phnom Penh, there are over 20,000 children living and/or working on the streets. In Siem Reap and around Angkor Temples, 1,500 children live and work on the streets. And nearly 1,000 children live and work on the streets and beaches of Sihanoukville.

Risks faced in Cambodia: Child Rights abuses, HIV/AIDS, exploitation including sexual abuse, drug and alcohol issues.

According to official statistics, 35% of the population in Cambodia lives below the poverty line (1800 Riel / USD 0.45 per person, per day). However, with more than 80% of the population living in rural areas, this percentage could be higher.

Approximately 90% of the poor live in the rural areas with the highest poverty rates found among households headed by farmers and those where the breadwinner has little or no formal education. Crop failures, weather conditions, environmental degradation, health problems, landlessness and lack of access to land make families very vulnerable. Lack of opportunities such as poor access to assets, education and skills training, lack of infrastructure and inadequate farming technology are among the reasons behind poverty.

Though it is also widespread in high social classes, increased violence against women, rape, domestic violence and trafficking of women and children might be symptomatic of poverty and may also be symptoms of a postwar stress reaction and for many the only solution to handle their stressful life.

The cost of public education (registration fees, uniforms, supplies, mandatory private lessons) prevents many families from sending their children to school. These children then spend most of their time unsupervised either loitering or working to earn an income.

The Cambodia Ministry of Health announced in June 2007 the official HIV estimate prevalence at 0.9% among adults. UNCEF estimates there are some 12 000 children living with AIDS in Cambodia, with many having lost one or both of their parents to the disease. With a rising AIDS death toll, it is projected that HIV/AIDS will account for one in four orphans in Cambodia, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive planning to mitigate the impact of HIV on children.

HIV/AIDS is an important factor contributing to the increase in the number of children, who are either orphaned or affected by the disease, working and living on the streets. As parents become ill, they are increasingly unable to provide for the family. Children have to work to supplement the family income, largely through undertaking menial jobs on the streets.

Street Children
All these factors have lead to increased urban migration and therefore an increase in the population of street living children, street working children and street living families.

Urban poverty forces many children to work in order to supplement the family’s income.

There are many jobs children on the streets undertake: very young children work as scavengers, beggars or vendors. Older street children, often drug addicts perform illegal and physically challenging work such as construction work, drug dealing, sex work or selling their blood.

The migration of children towards large cities is increasing, generating a high number of young migrants arriving in Phnom Penh.

Tourism is on increase in Cambodia – about 1 million tourists visit the country each year and this number is increasing rapidly. Most come for the beauty of the country, but some come to exploit Cambodia’s hospitality. Sex tourism, from western and Asian countries, has been an important issue in the last years – many different organizations and the government are working on preventing this horrible development. There has been significant improvements in the enforcement of these laws. Travelers often unknowingly and unwillingly increase the vulnerability of street children. By feeling pity, giving money and food, child labor on the streets – a growing business – is supported and the children are sustained on the streets.

Friends-International’s response
Friends-International, through its two main programs The Street Children Network and ChildSafe, has developed many projects addressing the issues facing street children and vulnerable youth. Prevention projects and services are provided directly to street children with the aim of social reintegration and the ChildSafe network aims at providing a protective environment for street children. By approaching travelers directly, ChildSafe works on minimizing the negative effects that tourism can have for the children of Cambodia.

For further information, please see Street Children Profile 2006


Population: 5,777,180 million (July 2002 est.)

Population under 14 years: 42.5%

Under 5 mortality rate: 90.98 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)

Primary school entrants reaching grade 5: 59 %

GDP - real growth rate: 5% (2001 est.)

High ethnic diversity (47 officially recognized ethnic groups), internal migration.

Peuan Mit estimates there are around 600 to 700 children on the streets of Vientiane. In October 2006, the Peuan Mit/Friends-International team identified 250 children over a one-day survey period in Vientiane.

The majority of children on the streets in Vientiane are (80%) who have kept ties with their family and return home either regularly or irregularly. Many children are also living with their families on the streets.

Risks faced by Street Children
  • Physical abuse by street living parents and others.
  • Poor health, hygiene and nutrition.
  • Sexual abuse and vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections.
  • Substance use.
  • Violence and gang related issues.
  • Trafficking into prostitution and domestic exploitation.


Thailand, with its capital Bangkok, has 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. The population of Thailand is currently over 62 million with about 80% of these being ethnic Thais, 10% ethnic Chinese, 3% ethnic Malay and the rest are minorities (including Mons, Khmers, hill tribes). Approximately one third of the country's population is under the age of 18.

Cambodian Children on the streets of Thailand
Increasing numbers of Cambodians (both adults and children) are going to Thailand to beg on the streets or work illegally in a variety of sectors including construction, fishing, farming and factory work, putting themselves at risk of trafficking and other abusive situations. Ever-increasing regional economic disparities means that Thailand is now the number one destination for poverty stricken families from the rest of the region.

In late 2005, Friends-International began a research project looking into the situation of Cambodian children begging on the streets of Bangkok. The research gathered both quantitative and qualitative data on children and their reasons for coming to Thailand through outreach activities in Bangkok as well as through working directly with Cambodian women, youth and children placed, either as vulnerable migrants or as victims of trafficking in Royal Thai Government shelters.

The research showed that migration, and notably unsafe/illegal migration for many different purposes is a huge problem, which often ends up with women, men, youth and children working in exploitative situations or worse, being trafficked or sold into various forms of slavery.


Total population (2005): 222.781 million.

Total population under 18 (2005): 75.641 million.

Total population under 5 (2005): 21.571 million.

Population annual growth rate (1990-2005): 2.1%.

Life expectancy (2005): 68 years.

GNI per capita (2005): US$1,280.

Population below US$1/day (1994-2004):

Child labor (5-14 years) 199-2005: 4%

Street Children in Indonesia
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, in 2005 there were 46,800 street children across 21 provinces in Indonesia. Substantial numbers of street children were identified in Jakarta and the provinces of East Java, West Java, North Sumatra, and South Sulawesi. Surabaya, in East Java, was home to approximately 8,000 street children, many reportedly susceptible to sexual abuse and violence. (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2005).

Aceh, in Northern Sumatra, was the scenario of a secessionist conflict for over three decades, a conflict that was left aside by the December 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Aceh was the worst hit area by the Tsunami, adding to an already challenging environment for children. Many children were left orphans by the conflict and many by the Tsunami too. Although the number of street children in the province is relatively small, the social and economic conditions created by long years of armed conflict and the aftermath of natural disasters, have left a large population of children at risk of becoming street children in Aceh.

Risks faced in Indonesia:
Poverty, natural disaster and armed conflicts. Aceh was the hardest hit area in the 2004 Tsunami. According to potential partner organizations already working in Aceh, several street children, as well as some of the staff working with them passed away during the Tsunami. In the aftermath of the Tsunami, there were several cases reported of children without family being trafficked out of the country. The death of family members forced some children to the streets, or to orphanages.