Cambodia this week repatriated 15 women who spent the last year in detention after being trafficked to Malaysia to work illegally as maids.
The women, aged 20 to 37, were flown back to Cambodia on Wednesday, a year after they were detained for illegally working in Malaysia, according to a statement released on Thursday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The statement says the women were sent by a Cambodian company to work as maids for Malaysian company H2O Cleaning Services in 2015. It says they were arrested in January last year at the home of a person identified only as Chin, for working without passports or labor permits, and put on trial.
“After receiving information about the detentions, the [Cambodian] Embassy assigned officials to visit, look into their accommodations, meals and health, and attend the trial every time they were summoned to court,” the statement says.
With a verdict still pending, it added, “the court agreed to the request of the Embassy to let the 15 female workers return to Cambodia after giving their final statements on December 9, 2016. The Embassy will represent the 15 female workers to keep demanding their remaining wages from the employer.”
The statement did not say how much the women are owed or whether the company in Malaysia that hired them or the one in Cambodia that sent them would be prosecuted. The Cambodian company was not identified.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry could not be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Hun Sen banned Cambodians from working as maids in Malaysia in 2011 amid mounting reports of unpaid wages, forced overtime and physical and sexual abuse. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2015 to lift the ban, but implementation details have yet to be finalized.
Even so, many Cambodians have continued to go to Malaysia to work as maids, sometimes with the help of local recruitment agencies.
Last year, two repatriated Cambodian maids arrested and detained in Malaysia said they saw fellow detainees, including other Cambodians, die after being severely beaten by guards. Malaysian authorities denied the claims, but said one Cambodian woman at the detention center died of an unspecified illness.