The government Monday reimbursed hundreds of laborers who paid $500 for the right to work lucrative construction jobs in Greece but waited months as the work never materialized.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor was to give 894 workers $500 each, following an order issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. As of 2 pm Monday, 258 had collected their money, finance official Duch Sovanny said.
“Now that I have my money back I am happy, but not 100 percent, because I am still angry at the company that cheated us,” laborer Brak Chan Borei said.
He said his in-laws kicked him out of the house because of his debt. He still owes $250 in interest on the $500 he borrowed in July. Many workers went into debt to pay the deposits.
Some 1,200 laborers were hired in August by the Cambodia Consulting and Associate agency to work for a Canadian company. They were to travel to Athens, Greece, where they would make a high wage on construction projects for the 2004 Olympics.
But their departure was repeatedly postponed. Eventually, the workers said, it became clear the jobs—and their deposits, which were to cover processing costs—were gone. The workers have held several protests, calling on government leaders and CCA to remedy their situation. Although the government had ruled they should be reimbursed, they were unable to collect from CCA.
One of the company’s officers, Pok Yuthea, was recently fired from his job as adviser to Senate President Chea Sim. Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued an arrest warrant but he remains free—something that caused workers to burn tires in front of his house. According to the premier’s order, the ministry was to seize all of the company’s property and assets and use them to help fund the reimbursements.
“I am very happy to have my money back,” laborer Tang Seng Ny said.