Labor Raid Finds 90 Women Locked in Villa

Police found 90 women, who were awaiting placement as housekeepers in Malaysia, locked inside a Phnom Penh villa during a raid on a labor export company Tuesday, police officials said.

The gate was locked Wednes­­­­day at Philimore Cambo­dia Co Ltd’s site in Chamkar Mon dis­­trict’s Tuol Svay Prey I commune.

“We do not allow them to go out,” Chhoy Vutha, a company guard said. “They may disappear.”

Police raided the company—the second probe into a labor ex­port company in recent weeks—af­­ter an aunt of one trainee complained after the trainee, Mong Ra­vy, 19, was not allowed to visit her sick parents in Takeo pro­­vince, said Meng Say, of Phnom Penh’s anti-human trafficking office.

“When the police arrived, we were just looking for her,” he said.

Police found Mong Ravy and re­turned her to Takeo, he said. Po­lice announced that any of the oth­er women could leave with them but none did, Meng Say said.

“When we arrived, we saw that the situation is strange, because we saw that the girls have had their hair cut,” he said. “They look like men.” His report will go to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for further action or investigation.

The women and their parents signed contracts obliging them to re­main at the center and accept lia­bi­lity if they decide not to go to Ma­laysia, company finance officer Leng Vichheka said Wednes­day.

Contracts also require women to be of pleasant appearance and have no deformities. The women are trained to do housework, cook, watch children, care for the el­derly and massage their bosses, Leng Vichheka said.

Although police are not considering it a trafficking case, Phil­imore is the latest labor ex­port com­pany accused of limiting the freedom of its workers.

“We are more and more inter­es­ted in these types of agencies be­cause of the recent developments of trafficking to Malaysia,” said Aar­ti Kapoor, a legal adviser for the NGO Afe­sip, which participated in the raid.

Three women were repatriated last year after they were trafficked for sex work in Malaysia.

Last month, Cambodian Labor Su­p­ply Ptd Ltd, came under fire for prohibiting girls from visiting their parents, without first paying a large deposit.

In December, the Ministry of Social Affairs reported Cambodian La­bor Supply, Philimore and five oth­ers were licensed. The minis­try has checked into these companies to certify them, Chuor Eang­ly, deputy director of em­­­ployment and manpower, said Wed­nesday. He said ministry in­ves­tigations revealed the wo­men were not confined against their will.

(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)


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