A Change of Guard

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Friday, 1 June 2012

Maid complaints on the rise

Friday, 01 June 2012 
By Mom Kunthear
Phnom Penh Post

Domestic migrant workers, some of whom are under-age, get processed at the Anti-Human Trafficking & Juvenile Protection office in Phnom Penh last year after being freed during a police raid. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

The number of complaints filed in Kampong Chhnang province by the families of maids working in Malaysia has jumped exponentially compared to the same period last year, a rights worker told the Post yesterday.

Provincial Adhoc coordinator Soum Chankea said 39 requests for the NGO’s intervention in maid cases had been filed in the first five months of this year. An additional 23 complaints were filed regarding fishermen working overseas.

“There are three kinds of complaints that we received from the maids’ families – they are looking for daughters who they cannot contact anymore, to bring their daughters back and demanding their salary,” he said.

This was an enormous increase from the three complaints related to maids he received last year, a result he partly attributed to the ban imposed on sending maids to Malaysia in October after a rash of abuses surfaced there.

“In previous years, the company paid attention to the maid, and they had good communication with the family, providing information between the maid and family. The company worked immediately for the family if they lost contact with their daughters,” he said.

But since the ban, recruitment agencies did not seem to care as much for the maids’ well-being as they were no longer a source of revenue for the companies, he said.

Families usually tried first to get assistance from the agencies but turned to NGOs such as Adhoc when their appeals did not see results. Horror stories of repatriated maids and fishermen had also increased the concern of families, added Soum Chankea.

Mom Sokchar, representative of the Cambodian Working Group for Domestic Workers, agreed that while the cooperativeness of recruitment agencies varied, generally “less responsibility and attention” was being paid to maids by private agencies.

The lack of a monitoring system also meant that maids working in Malaysia at the time of the ban were isolated until complaints were filed by their families, he said, adding that a complaint mechanism should also be introduced to assist worried families.

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