Somaly Mam: Cambodian anti-sex trafficking campaigner and founder of AFESIP, rescuing women from brothels and supporting their recovery

Emine Saner
The Guardian

Growing up in extreme poverty under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, Mam was sold into sexual slavery when she was 12, eventually ending up in a Phnom Penh brothel where she endured unimaginable daily torture and rape. After being made to watch as another girl, her best friend, was murdered, Mam escaped and was helped out of Cambodia by a French aid worker.

Instead of trying to rebuild her life in France, where she married, Mam returned to Cambodia to help girls who hadn’t been so lucky. In 1996, she set up her organization Afesip (Action for Women in Distressing Situations), to rescue girls and women from brothels and support their recovery. She has already helped more than 4,000 women and children, some as young as five, escape sexual slavery in south-east Asia and in 2007 set up the Somaly Mam Foundation, to raise awareness, campaign for change and fund projects to rescue and rehabilitate women and children sold into slavery.

Mam’s work has come at a terrible personal cost. Her life has been threatened by pimps and brothel owners, and in 2006, her then 14-year-old daughter was kidnapped and raped by three men, as retaliation for the work her mother does. In an interview in 2005 , Mam admitted to periods of desperation, including more than one suicide attempt. But in more recent years, asked why she continues to fight, she has always responded, “I don’t want to go without leaving a trace.”


Tragedy in Southern Illinois Reinforces Farm Safety Reminders

from Illinois Corn

In an incredibly unfortunate turn of events last week, two southern Illinois teens died in a tragic accident on a farm, the victims of electrocution. Our thoughts and prayers center on the affected families at this time. In this time of loss, IL Corn hopes that everyone will remember the price paid by these two young men and invest in your own families and employees the time needed to properly handle on-farm safety issues.

 Yesterday marked the beginning of National Farm Safety Week. “Growing the Most Important Crop,” this year’s theme, focuses on making farms and ranches safer for farmers, their family members and employees with special emphasis on children.

People of all ages, but particularly children, are at risk of injuries on the farm. With more than 1 million youth living on farms, reaching out to adults with information on how they can reduce risks to the children in their care is critical to preventing farm and ranch incidents and fatalities.

More than half of young people living on farms and ranches pitch in doing chores, with those age 10 to 15 helping the most. Another 307,000 youth not living on farms are hired as employees each year.

According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries has declined by nearly 60 percent over the last decade or so but many children still die in farm accidents every year in the U.S. and others are injured, often seriously. Youth fatalities on farms were most often attributed to machinery (including tractors), followed by motor vehicles including all-terrain vehicles. Falls accounted for 40 percent of non-fatal youth injuries on farms.

The tragic electrocution death of the southern Illinois teenagers is drawing national attention to the need for safety precautions when working with long and tall equipment near overhead power lines. The southern Illinois 18 year- olds were working to free a raccoon, which had crawled inside an aluminum pipe used for irrigation, when the pipe touched an overhead electric wire.  When the teens hoisted the 31 foot pipe into the air, the wind pushed it into the wire. They became the path to the ground for the electricity and both were fatally injured from the deadly voltage.

The increasing size of farm equipment raises the risk of contact at field entries and along end rows, where overhead electric wires may be present. The taller equipment may not always allow the recommended 10 foot separation when passing beneath or near the power lines. In agricultural areas the vertical clearance required is less than the clearance over roadways and streets.  Never assume that because the machinery passed under the lines in one area means it will adequately clear another area.

Any part of an implement that can touch a power line offers a potential path to the ground for the electric current.  Farm equipment operators who are working on the ground with the equipment can become the path for the deadly current flow.  Such equipment not only includes large tillage equipment, but antennas, grain augers, auger wagons, and truck beds with hydraulic lifts.


Thai government urged to stop using child soldiers in militias

Posted : Thu, 03 Mar 2011 10:08:49 GMT
Asia World News | Home


Bangkok – The Thai government is exposing children to “significant risks” by recruiting them in the war against Muslim insurgents in the south of the country, a coalition of humanitarian non-governmental organisations alleged on Thursday.

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers and the Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF) said children between the ages of 9 and 17 were taking part in weapons training under the government-established Village Defence Militias, known locally by the Thai initials Chor Ror Bor.

“Children under the age of 18 are exposed to significant risks due to their association with Chor Ror Bor,” the coalition said.

“The militias are armed with a mixture of shotguns and automatic weapons,” the coalition’s Arachapon Nimitkulpon said at a press conference. “On occasions the militias are required to take part in military operations,” including searches for insurgent suspects.

Over the past four years, more than 4,000 soldiers, militia members, police, Muslim insurgents and civilians have been killed in violent incidents in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.

The Village Defence Militias were set up in 1985 as a successor to a network of local village volunteer groups established in the 1960s to combat communist insurgents.

In a report issued Thursday, the coalition and the JPF said field research in southern Thailand in mid-2010 found children were formal members of the government militias or were performing some duties associated with militia membership in 13 of the 19 villages visited by researchers.

“They patrol the village, man checkpoints and guard sites vulnerable to attack. They may also be required to assist the local police or the military to identify suspects, including suspected members of armed groups, and on occasion are required to participate in military operations in the surrounding area,” said the report.

It called on the government to “explicitly criminalize” the use of children under 18 by the armed forces, paramilitaries and Village Defence Militias.

Coalition director Victoria Adam cited an incident in which two children were killed in a military operation.

She said evidence indicated Muslim insurgents also were using child soldiers “in a range of different scenarios and activities” related to the southern separatist insurgency.

“Children have suffered greatly because of the armed violence in the south and a more comprehensive strategy is needed to protect them,” Adam said. “Any military activity is detrimental to children.”


ASSE Rolls Out Its New Target Teen Work Safety Tools Aimed At Preventing Work Injuries, Illnesses


March 3, 2011

American Society of Safety Engineers roll out new target teen safety kit aimed at preventing youth work injuries, illnesses

Des Plaines, IL – Slippery floors, hot cooking equipment, heavy lifting, loud noises and working alone are some of the dangers teens face as they experience a first job or seasonal employment. If not aware of the risk and properly trained and protected, these dangers can lead to serious injuries or fatalities for teen workers. To help teens stay safe at work, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed a new, comprehensive “Target Teen Work Safety” electronic tool kit ( it is rolling out this month to ASSE chapters. Read more


11-year-old the latest victim of child labor

The Star/Asia News Network

SOUTH INDIA – MAKKAL Osai reported that a girl, Dhanalakshmi, 11, from Tamil Nadu became the latest victim of child labour and torture when she succumbed to her injuries at Kolenchery Medical Mission Hospital in Hyderabad, South India.

It was reported that Dhanalakshmi was in a coma when she was admitted to the hospital on Thursday.

She had sustained injuries like multiple burns and haemorrhage in her left eye.

Paediatricians and physicians found several burns on her body and informed the police.It was reported that her employer, Jose Kurien, who claimed to be a lawyer residing nearby, brought Dhanalakshmi to the hospital.

The hospital authorities said they were told that she was doing domestic work in Kurien’s house and attending to his sick wife. It is suspected that Dhanalakshmi was tortured in his house.

-The Star/Asia News Network


Sex-Trafficking Bill passes House

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia House took aim at those who prostitute children on Wednesday, overwhelmingly agreeing to make it easier to go after pimps and others who exploit minors for sex.

House Bill 200 also would significantly increase the penalties for the crime of human trafficking and sexual servitude, bringing them in line with those for drug trafficking.

It passed the House with bipartisan support, 168-1. The lone dissenter, Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, said he objected only because of constitutional questions about how many features the bill contained. He said he did not oppose the bill’s goals.

House members applauded themselves after the vote.

“Passage of this bill sends a strong message: ‘Not in our Georgia,’ ” said Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, the bill’s sponsor.

The approval comes just a year after legislators let a bill designed to help children trapped as sexual slaves die over concerns it would legalize prostitution for children under 16 by treating them as victims instead of criminals. Georgia’s age of consent is 16. Read more


GoodWeave and Your Carpet Choice Can Help Improve Child Labor Standards

Julia Moulden/Huffington Post

My column runs on Saturdays, so you’re likely reading this on the weekend. Are you barefoot, and luxuriating in soft carpeting under your toes as you relax? And did you know that you can influence whether the rugs you buy for your home and office are made with child labour or not?

Well, with a little help from the folks at GoodWeave, you can. GoodWeave certifies child-labour-free rugs and provides education and opportunities for children who are rescued as well as those at risk. Read more


US Labor Department Fines Marcus Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Wehrenberg movie theatre chains more than $277,000 for Child Labor Violations

WHD News Release: [03/01/2011]

Contact Name: Scott Allen or Rhonda Burke

Release Number: 11-0247-NAT

Minors in 9 states found performing hazardous work, working longer hours than permitted by law

CHICAGO — The U.S. Department of Labor has assessed a total of $277,475 in civil money penalties against three movie theatre companies, Marcus Theatre Corp., Regal Cinemas Inc. and Wehrenberg Inc., for allowing dozens of teens to perform hazardous jobs and work longer hours than allowed by the youth employment provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, through a strategic enforcement initiative aimed at curbing violations in an industry found to have a high rate of non-compliance with child labor laws, discovered approximately 160 minors were being required to perform hazardous jobs — such as operating paper balers and trash compactors, operating motor vehicles, using power driven mixers and baking — in theatres owned by the three chains. Marcus Theatre Corp. also allowed youth to work beyond permitted hours. The 27 theatres where the minors were employed are in nine states: California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Read more