Cambodia to Meet Malaysia Over Maids MoU

The Ministry of Labor said Wednesday that the government has agreed on a final draft of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Malaysia regarding sending Cambodian maids to work there, but that no timeframe for the signing of the agreement has been set.

Following reports of abuse of Cambodian maids, Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2011 banned the sending of Cambodian migrants to work as domestic servants in Malaysia. The two nations have since been working on an MoU to provide sufficient protections for maids that would allow the ban to be lifted.

“The Cambodian side has revised and reviewed some [aspects of the MoU] and we finished this on February 24,” Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan said, declining to elaborate on the details of the revised version.

The government will now set up a meeting with Malaysian representatives to discuss the MoU, Mr. Hassan added.

According to San Arun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the new draft MoU stipulates that Cambodian workers be paid a minimum wage, that contracts be signed prior to their departure, and that employers guarantee health insurance as well as a safe, private and secure bedroom.

The original draft of the document, written by Malaysia, did not guarantee basic human and labor rights. Cambodia returned a revised version, which Malaysia then again returned to Cambodia last year.

In the previous version of the now-revised draft, Malaysia rejected about 90 percent of provisions meant to ensure workers’ rights, and crossed out the section stipulating that employers must “respect the basic human rights of the DW [domestic worker].”

Ms. Arun said that the government would not hurry the process because it was essential the document provide sufficient protections for workers.

“It’s not a quick process, because we have to make sure that it’s a good MoU…. We have to go over it some more and make sure that we cover every corner because with Malaysia that’s a bit difficult,” she said.

Jenna Holliday, communications officer with U.N. Women, said at the quarterly stakeholder meeting on human trafficking Wednesday in Phnom Penh that Cambodia should take a strong position in upcoming negotiations.

“Cambodia has more leverage than they think because Malaysia wants domestic workers,” Ms. Holliday said.

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