A Change of Guard

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Monday, 17 October 2011

Cambodian maids sent to Malaysia despite ban

Cambodian maids in cooking class at orientation in Kuala Lumpur.

Free Malaysia Today
October 17, 2011

A human rights group claims that two labour recruitment companies in Cambodia had sent 24 domestic workers to Malaysia.

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian human rights group said two labour recruitment companies sent at least 25 domestic workers to Malaysia early today, apparently breaching a ban signed over the weekend by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with the rights group LICADHO, said he had spoken with groups totalling 25 women at the Phnom Penh airport, adding that recruitment agents from the companies had confirmed their destination and work.

“It is shocking and very disappointing to see what these two companies have done,” Pellerin said. “The ban is very clear: a suspension on recruitment and on sending domestic workers.”

Hun Sen signed an order on Saturday that suspended sending maids to Malaysia after numerous reports of abuses. An estimated 15 percent of Malaysia’s 320,000 domestic workers are Cambodian.

Senior officials from the Labour Ministry were not available to comment, but Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, confirmed Hun Sen’s order was in effect.

LICADHO, which is the French acronym for the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, said seven of the women were from Top Manpower, whose owner chairs the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, an industry body. The other 18 were from International Investment Service Co Ltd.

LICADHO said a staffer from Top Manpower claimed the seven women and all other trainees at the company were exempt from the ban because they had signed contracts prior to its enactment.

Pellerin said the incident also raised questions about immigration officers, given that the women were easily identifiable, wearing matching T-shirts with company logos.

Cambodian opposition parliamentarians have this year highlighted the abuse of domestic workers in Malaysia. Rights groups have long complained that foreign maids in Malaysia lack protection under labour laws, and last week, a police raid freed dozens of underage recruits at T&P Co Ltd, a Cambodian labour recruitment firm that has since been shut down.

The ban, which has been condemned by maid placement agencies, could exacerbate Malaysia’s ongoing labour shortage. It came on the heels of a similar ban instituted by Indonesia two years ago.

- dpa

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