Malaysia has not yet received a draft agreement aimed at protecting Cambodian migrant domestic workers from abuse, but the government is pressing Cambodia to lift its two-year moratorium on sending maids, a Malaysian official said Wednesday.
In October 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a ban on sending domestic workers to Malaysia following recurring reports of serious abuse and exploitation of female Cambodian workers by their Malaysian employers and unscrupulous Cambodian recruitment agencies.
On Monday, Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told state news agency Bernama that Cambodia will start sending 1,000 women a month as soon as a long-awaited memorandum of understanding (MoU) is signed by the two governments in “a few months’ time.”
Clarifying the minister’s statements, his press secretary, Fadzlette Othman Merican, said Wednesday that Cambodia has not shown Malaysia a draft MoU, but the government was eager to restart the trade.
“We are waiting for the Cambodian government to prepare the MoU first, then both parties will agree or disagree and maybe they will come out with the final MoU,” Ms. Merican said. “The timeline [we like] is as soon as possible…. We just want it to be effective in a sooner period of time.”
But Hou Vuthy, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Labor, said Wednesday Cambodia is waiting for the Malaysian government to send the draft back with comments.
“The MoU draft, Cambodia sent to Malaysia to review recently. Right now, the Cambodian government is waiting for the draft to be sent back,” Mr. Vuthy said. He declined to comment when asked about Ms. Merican’s statement.
Ms. Merican also said that in discussions with Cambodian Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan, who has been in Malaysia for the past three days, the two parties had agreed to send 1,000 Cambodian women to Malaysia each month once it is signed.
She also took issue with Malaysia’s reputation for employee abuse, and said that the country’s law enforcement would sufficiently punish employers who mistreat their maids.
“I think that all are isolated cases. It’s not as if in the whole of Malaysia, all the employers abuse their maids,” she said.
The two governments should be focused on resolving problems currently faced by Cambodian maids already working in Malaysia and those who have returned to Cambodia traumatized, said Mom Sokchar, program manager for local women’s rights group Legal Support for Children and Women.
“This would be the best way for either government and the recruitment agencies,” Mr. Sokchar said. “If we cannot solve the old problems, then why should we send the domestic workers to Malaysia?”