Cambodian Maids Bound for Malaysia Need Better Deal

As a Cambodian by birth who is currently working and living in Kuala Lumpur, I feel very sad that the Cam­bodian government has again decided to send young girls to Malaysia to work as maids while other countries have either stopped or modified their employment conditions—“Maids Unlikely to Reach Malaysia Before 2017” (June 8).

—Letter to the editor

Indonesia last month decided to stop sending girls to Malaysia to work as live-in maids. Instead, it proposes to provide daytime domestic helpers. It also de­mands better pay and conditions, including one paid day off per week.

I was so happy that Prime Minister Hun Sen decided in 2011 to stop sending maids to Malaysia after a tragedy and some atrocities happened to Cambodian maids there. Al­though some maids may be hap­py working seven days a week for good families in Malaysia, the majority of them wish to return home. The lack of employment in Cambodia is the main reason they are driven to work for little pay in Malaysia.

I have heard of appalling living conditions for our maids in Ma­laysia. Last year, my wife and I successfully negotiated the re­lease of an ailing girl from her employers in our condominium. What is happening in this industry is an example of modern-day slavery.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in Dec­em­ber by Cambodia and Mal­aysia, promising an end to the 2011 ban. I believe nothing now will stop the process, which is to benefit only those government officials who have been involved in this industry. My only wish is that our government or a responsible organization will negotiate a better deal for the girls, who are in no position to do so themselves. One day off a week is a basic human right and should be required in any deal.

Kim Cheng Ly
Kuala Lumpur

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