Details Murky in Cambodian Maid’s Death in Malaysia

As reports of the death of yet another Cambodian maid in Malaysia surfaced, opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday that a bilateral agreement between Cambodia and Malaysia was necessary if the two countries were serious about protecting the rights of Cambodian domestic workers living in Malaysia.

The death occurred while Ms Sochua was in Malaysia last week to hold talks with local NGOs there, Cambodian Embassy officials, and Malaysian opposition politicians about protection for Cambodian maids.

Ob Kan, 42, from Kompong Speu province, died on Nov 7, according to Ms Sochua, but the circumstances surrounding the woman’s death are still unclear.

Ms Kan was originally recruited by the VC Manpower company but she was transferred to another labor recruitment agency, Top Manpower Co, according to Moeun Tola, director of the Community Legal Education Center’s labor project.

Mr Tola said he learned of the death from an official at the Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur while on the same trip as Ms Sochua.

An Bunhak, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies who is also chairman of Top Manpower Co, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, said he was unaware of the latest death.

Ms Sochua said that she would send a proposal to the government that they sign a bilateral agreement with Malaysia to protect the rights of Cambodian maids.

“Each agency (must) have data: Who’s been recruiting who, what’s the name, who has this person been sent to? What date? At the moment there isn’t such a system, that’s why there’s such abuse,” she said.

A standardized contract between worker and employer stipulating working hours, duties, and wages-the details of which would be entered into a database and regularly updated-was also essential to protecting Cambodian domestic workers, Ms Sochua said.

“From Malaysia, we don’t see [the] political will yet. In Cambodia [there is] but the implementation of that political will is still a question mark,” Ms Sochua added.

Asked whether the government recognized the need for a bilateral agreement with Kuala Lumpur, spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said only that an existing memorandum of understanding was already an official agreement between the two countries.

“The MOU is fair enough for both parties,” said Mr Siphan, adding that he disagreed with Ms Sochua’s claim that there was no political will from the Malaysian government.

“I don’t [agree]. Mu Sochua takes this opportunity to advocate for her interests, her reputation,” he said.


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