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International children’s rights award a win for Cambodia

Taing Rinith / Khmer Times Tue, December 22, 2020

Taing Rinith accepts his prizes for winning the Ulrich Wickert Award for Children’s Rights 2020 in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea


PHNOM PENH – It was a Tuesday evening on July 28. I was getting ready to leave the office after a long day of hard work. Suddenly, my phone rang out an email notification. I took it out and this was the first thing I saw:


Dear Rinith Taing,

I hope you remember that you took part in our German journalism award. I have good news: You are the International Winner of the Ulrich Wickert Award for Children’s Rights 2020! Your article “Children of the night”, which you published in 2019, convinced the jury of our journalism award. Congratulations!

The email, sent from Antje Schröder, media specialist of Plan International Deutschland, shocked me so much that the phone dropped from my hand.

It is the dream of every professional journalist to win an international award for their work.

Yet, to be honest, I did not expect to win when I submitted my story for the competition around two months earlier since I was so young in this field – not to mention my contribution would have to compete with candidates from 53 other countries.

The jury consisted of outstanding individuals in the field including Susanne Amann, managing editor of Der Spiegel, and of course, Ulrich Wickert, one of the best-known broadcasters and journalists in Germany.

Once a year, the Ulrich Wickert Foundation’s Journalism Prize is awarded to the best media report on the subject of children’s rights in four categories: International award, Germany/Austria award, Children/Youth award and Peter Scholl-Latour award.

It pleased me, even more, to learn that I was the first Cambodian and the first Asian to win the award, although the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented me from going to the award ceremony in Berlin, where Wickert would have handed over the trophies to this year’s winners.

I would like to dedicate this honour to my “two families”, without whom such an achievement would have been impossible. The first one is comprised of my supportive parents, sister and wife who have always been there for me during both bad and good times.

My other family includes all my colleagues at Khmer Times, with whom I have been working to deliver credible information to readers and to enhance journalism in Cambodia.

Particularly, I could not give enough thanks to Mr T Mohan, publisher of Khmer Times, who has offered me, along with employment, an endless opportunity to grow as a journalist as well as to follow my passion in writing and storytelling.

I also would like to express my gratitude to Kay Kimsong, COO and acting editor-in-chief, who has been a great mentor in both life and career.

In “Children of the night”, I investigated the life and wellbeing of vulnerable children in society; those who have to come out at night to work or beg to earn money. Here is the first paragraph in the article:

“As the night falls, many children have now started conversing with their parents, who otherwise force them to go to bed early so that they will not be late for school in the morning. In the city of Phnom Penh, however, many children are not that fortunate. For them, their days started late at night because they have to find money by begging or selling various things to the people who love going out and enjoy all sort of night time activities. These children go out and engage with all kinds of people without knowing what would happen to them.”

I wrote this story because I want everyone to contribute to their safety and to put an end to the abuses from which those children have been suffering. In the meantime, I also hope that this award-winning article will help draw more attention to the general issue of child labour in Cambodia which currently remains in a grave condition.

Although the government has been working hard to combat the issue, the 2020 Child Labour Index ranked Cambodia 28th in the world and the highest risk among Southeast Asian countries, for the use of underage workers.

While the minimum age for employment in Cambodia is 15, the 2018 statistics from the Bureau of International Labour Affairs estimated that some 237,000 (or 8.1 percent) of children aged 5 to14 in Cambodia were in the workforce.

No matter whether children are willing to go out and make money to support their families or if they are coerced to do so, I strongly believe that the only workplaces for children are their schools. No one should be given the right to rob anybody of their childhood and all children, rich or poor, must have equal access to education and a better future.

Being selected as the International Winner of the Ulrich Wickert Award for Children’s Rights 2020 will encourage me to work even harder for Cambodia, my beloved country, my two families and my people.

SOURCE: Khmer Times, Cambodia Tue, December 22, 2020

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