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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 22, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Many children under the age of 12 are employed as laborers in tea and coffee plantations in the Highlands, a union leader claimed yesterday.

Papua New Guinea Teachers' Association regional secretary Arnold Kondil said, "I express sympathy regarding the prevailing criminal situation in tea and coffee plantations in the Highlands region, where children under the age of 12 years are employed for more than 25 hours per week," Mr. Kondil said.

He said most of the children living in the tea and coffee plantations are not sent to school. "Instead, they are employed by the plantations to make quick money," Mr. Kondil alleged.

"Here in PNG, especially in the Highlands, the plantation owners and managers' prime interest is in profit making, without any regard for cases of child labor, and living and working conditions of plantation employees," Mr. Kondil said.

He said for too long, authorities had failed to express concern over the situation, which was in direct violation of the United Nations Charter on Human Rights, which stipulates that child labor is a criminal offence.

He said parents also encouraged their youngsters to work in the plantations with them, normally for the same hours.

"This is because of the quick income they earn, without any regard for the future of their child," he said.

Mr. Kondil said he had confirmed this with representatives of some of the leading tea and coffee plantations in the Wahgi Valley of Western Highlands Province. In most cases the children were discouraged from attending school, he said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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