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