Labor Minister Warns Officials Over Foreign Work Permits

Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng on Thursday warned officials processing work permits for foreign workers to adhere strictly to all the relevant rules and regulations or risk an unwanted visit from the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

The government has recently started enforcing a longstanding but largely ignored legal provision requiring all foreign workers in the country to hold work permits, prompting confusion and anxiety through much of Cambodia’s expatriate community.

Speaking at the end of the Labor Ministry’s two-day annual conference in Phnom Penh, Mr. Sam Heng said officials were making too many “mistakes” in issuing the permits.

“This is a sensitive issue because when foreigners have a small problem, they yell and get annoyed, and it will affect investment,” he said. “So we have to act accurately and justly. We have to check carefully the fines and punishments.

“In some provinces, there have been mistakes in implementation, so this year, we have to act properly and not make mistakes. When officials make mistakes, they have to be responsible on their own, so be careful. When the ACU finds a mistake, no one can help you,” he said.

The government issued 20,000 of the permits last year, up from 8,000 the year before, according to the Labor Ministry.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s conference, Mr. Sam Heng also elaborated slightly on his announcement the day before that 50 garment factories were issued warnings for Labor Law violations in 2014.

He said the warnings were all issued in the second half of the year and that the factories would be allowed between one and three months to fix their mistakes or face fines ranging from 1 million riel to 4 million riel (about $250 to $1,000).

But the minister refused to identify any of the wayward factories for fear of damaging their reputations.

“It will affect their reputations and their exports and their workers, so it is better to not disseminate it.”

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