Lack of Authorization Papers Keeping Many Workers Illegal

Tens of thousands of foreign nationals are working illegally in Cambodia because neither they nor their employers have ob­tained proper work authorization certificates, the Ministry of Labor said Wednesday.

Foreign nationals or their employers must purchase official work authorization documents, which are separate to business visas, said Hem Bunny, director of the Labor Ministry’s department of employment and manpower.

Only 3,061 foreign workers had such documentation in 2007, with Chinese, Malaysians and Thais making up more than 2,200 of that number, Hem Bunny said, adding that the actual number of illegal workers is unclear.

The annual certification costs $100 for foreigners, and $50 for people holding dual citizenship, he said, adding that the money goes directly to the National Bank and in 2007 the ministry collected a total of $314,900.

SRP Lawmaker Yim Sovann said tax collection, such as the foreigner work certification, is low in Cam­bodia compared to other countries where income tax and other duties account for 50 percent of the national revenue, not less than 10 percent as is the case here.

Yim Sovann blamed corruption in government as one reason for low tax collection by the state.

“Sometimes, the officials charged with collecting the excise duty from foreign workers in Cambodia commit corruption by colluding with the firm to hide the real number of work­ers,” he said. The government needs to increase pay for civil servants in order to increase excise duty revenue, he said.

Hem Bunny said that some factories employ 100 foreigners but claim to only employ 10.

“Our inspection officials do not have strong power to raid firms,” Hem Bunny said, adding that his department works with the Interior Ministry to track down undocumented workers, though foreigners working for NGOs have less to worry about.

“Those working for NGOs in Cambodia are working and helping our country which is why we are not too strict on them,” he said.

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