Monday, September 22, 2008

Rights groups call for an end to child slavery in Malaysia

Jakarta, 18 Sept. (AKI) - Humans rights organisations have denounced the alleged enslavement and exploitation of thousands of Indonesian children employed on palm plantations in neighbouring Malaysia.

"Both Indonesia and Malaysia have ratified the convention against slavery, and both have not acted, allowing children to be enslaved in a systematic manner," said Arist Merdeka Sirait, secretary general of the Indonesian National Commission on Child Protection (KNPA) in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

"We now demand that Jakarta use its diplomatic channels to put an end to this scandal," said Sirait.

The Forum of Non-Permanent Teachers recently reported alleged child exploitation in the Malaysian plantation hub in Sabah to the National Commission on Child Protection.

Wahyu Susilo, representative of non-governmental organisation Migrant Care Indonesia said that the problem of child slavery is old and that the group had been trying for years to get the Indonesian government to intervene.

"We knew about the problem for many years, but putting pressure on the Indonesian government did not bring any results," said Susilo.

"Jakarta is guilty for not having done enough. But Malaysia is the main responsible partner because the abuses take place in their territory."

The KNPA also said that children are forced to work for long hours, in many cases without pay. They are also forced to live in isolated makeshift shacks without running water or electricity.

Many of the children have never been to school and have been subjected to violence and sexual abuse, said the KNPA.

Official data from the Indonesian consulate in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Sabah state in Malaysia, says more than 330,000 Indonesians work in at least 103 palm oil plantations in Malaysia. Almost half of them are illegal workers but it's not clear how many of them are children.


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