Officials said yesterday that the government had suspended a recruitment agency in Kompong Chhnang province suspected of forcibly confining 45 women and that plans were under way to shut it down permanently.
Police rescued the women, including 26 girls under the age of 18, who were training for domestic labor jobs in Malaysia, during a weekend raid on the provincial training center of the T&P recruitment agency.
Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said the Labor Ministry had suspended T&P yesterday and that he would ask both the ministry and the National Police to terminate the firm’s work license once he finishes his investigation.
“I will write the letter…to shut down the T&P recruitment agency when I return to Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that the firm had engaged in recruiting minors, illegal confinement of people and forging documents.
As for the investigation, provincial deputy police chief Prak Saony said police had arrested a recruitment broker named Pen Sam Ang, 45, who is believed to have sent some of the women to the training center from Kratie province.
Two parents, Khoem Srey, 45, and Soeun Sey, 44, suspected of forging documents to increase their daughter’s declared age, were also arrested, he said. Long Sina, 30, a trainer at the center, was arrested during the raid.
Mr Saony said police were also searching for the firm’s director and more brokers.
Ho Vuthy, deputy director general at the Labor Ministry, declined to discuss the case in detail, saying the firm’s ultimate fate would depend on the outcome of any future court case.
An Bunhak, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, confirmed the government’s plans to shutter T&P.
He said Labor Ministry officials had called to invite him to a meeting of a government-industry working group on migrant labor, which he sits on, to discuss the details of the shutdown.
“There is a meeting with the Ministry of Labor to finalize how to shut down the company,” he said, adding that a date for the meeting had yet to be set.
The Community Legal Education Center, a legal aid NGO for the poor, estimates that some 3,000 Cambodians recruited by T&P are presently working in Malaysia.
Mr Bunhak said the association had warned its members against recruiting underage workers “not less than five times” over the past year.
“Send the management to the courts,” he said. “Sentence them and send them to jail if they are found to break the law.”
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, urged the government to follow through on its plans for T&P, and to extend its investigation to local officials.
“The government should close down the T&P recruitment agency because this company has made a lot of mistakes,” he said. “And I suggest the government and police open an investigation into the commune authorities and village chiefs involved in forging [identity] documents.”
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)