Labor Ministry officials said yesterday that they would be open to sending more Cambodians to Malaysia as domestic workers, despite continuing allegations of foreign workers being mistreated there.
The Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh said on Monday that the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in the process of organizing a labor recruitment trip to Cambodia for Malaysia’s Deputy Human Resources Minister Datuk Maznah Mazlan. Embassy officials said yesterday that Malaysia was looking to decrease its dependence on foreign workers from certain countries.
Indonesia, a chief source of labor for Malaysia, stopped sending workers to Malaysia in June last year after a series of abuse scandals.
“This is an opportunity for Cambodians to work in a country where workers from other countries are no longer allowed,” said Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan yesterday.
According to Mr Hassan, the draft law on labor recruitment—designed to protect the rights of Cambodians abroad—will be sent to the Council of Ministers next month.
According to Malaysian Embassy figures, the number of Cambodians working in Malaysia has risen over the past few years. Cambodian workers received 5,304 work visas In 2008, 12,682 visas in 2009, and 20,909 visas between January and August of this year—18,038 of which were domestic workers.
“If I said there was no abuse, I would sound silly and be lying, but we are making a real effort to make sure that foreign workers are protected,” said Syed Farizal Aminy Syed Mohamad, First Secretary of the Malaysian Embassy.
Mr Mohamad said the Malaysian Embassy has asked many Cambodian labor recruitment agencies if they have received complaints about Malaysian recruiters and been told that no workers have yet complained. Mr Mohamad said he was concerned Cambodian workers might not be adequately educated about their rights.
An Bunhak, Chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said on Monday that his organization distributes government manuals on responding to abuse before sending workers abroad. According to Mr Bunhak, stories of Cambodian workers being abused in Malaysia have been fabricated by workers sent there who failed to perform their jobs adequately.
“They come home and feel embarrassed,” Mr Bunhak said.
In the US State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report released in June, Cambodian maids sent to Malaysia were cited specifically as a vulnerable group.
Some workers are reportedly subjected to confinement and conditions of involuntary servitude in, Saudi Arabia, and other destination countries, and some returning Malaysia workers reported being paid only at the end of their contract, at which time they were also informed that a substantial part of their pay was deducted,” the report stated.
Labor Ministry officials said yesterday they had been working with the Saudi Arabian government to significantly increase the flow of Cambodian workers to that middle-eastern country by the beginning of next year.