A Change of Guard

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Friday, 31 August 2012

Firm’s ‘hostage’awaits justice

Friday, 31 August 2012
Rachel Will and Mom Kunthear 
Phnom Penh Post
Heng Hak (left) sits next to SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua during a press conference yesterday. Heng Hak broke both of her legs in March last year while trying to escape from an office of T&P Co Ltd, a firm based in Sen Sok district that trained domestic workers for employment in Malaysia. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Heng Hak wore a blank expression yesterday, her hair recently dyed a shade of blonde. Though her appearance suggested composure, a lift of her pant leg revealed the manifestation of the trauma she tried to escape last year.

In March 2011, Hak jumped from the third floor of T&P Co Ltd recruitment agency, breaking both her legs. She claims that the company physically held her from seeing her family and children, so she jumped in order to escape.

“I don’t regret jumping down, because to die in Cambodia would have been better than dying in another country,” Hak said yesterday.

The words came at a press conference held to draw attention to the lack of action taken on her 2011 lawsuit against T&P, a now defunct company that trained domestic workers for employment in Malaysia. She sued the company for

illegal confinement, attempted murder and compensation totaling US$8,000.

Seventeen months later, she’s yet to see any of the money she has requested in  her lawsuit. In her latest legal move, she will add a human trafficking charge against T&P and will continue to sue for the remaining assets of T&P.

“We sent the intervention letter to the court and relevant ministries to help Heng Hak, but we did not receive anything,” Sam Rainsy Party MP Mu Sochua said yesterday at the press conference.

“Cambodian migrant workers still face a very bad situation and the government doesn’t care,” said Sochua. “T&P has already closed, but the government didn’t follow up on workers left in Malaysia.”

Since the case was last heard in court, T&P has completely dissolved and Sam Piseth, director of T&P, has gone into hiding. According to Moeun Tola of the Community Legal Education Centre, which is aiding Hak, she was given money by high-ranking officials to keep quiet following her accident.

“An assistant of a deputy prime minister visited her in the hospital and gave her money to convince her to not sue the T&P at that time. She accepted the donation, but it does not mean she agrees with it,” said Tola, adding that she will not be returning the money, which was used for “medical bills”.

An Bunhak, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruiting Agencies, says he has contributed his own money to Hak and asked her to come see him personally so that he can help her, but expressed skepticism about her latest appearance.

“We welcome her if she appears and needs assistance, but I ask you to consider why there is interest in her case now,” he said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Va Sakada told the Post yesterday that she had not received a complaint from Heng Hak and did not know who is assigned to the case.

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