Migrant Workers Demand Passports, Money

About 50 migrant workers who were part of a group that was abandoned at the Thai border by a recruitment agency last week gathered outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday to ask for the return of their passports and the fees they paid the company.

A total of 90 workers had given the Chin Vanda Manpower Company between $250 and $400 each to find them work in Thailand, but were abandoned at the border by a fixer. Upon returning to Phnom Penh, they discovered that the agency’s owner, Chin Vanda, had closed up shop and fled.

Migrant workers who were abandoned at the Thai border last week protest outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)
Migrant workers who were abandoned at the Thai border last week protest outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday. (Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily)

Kim Chenda, chief of border crossings at the the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said the municipal court charged the fixer over his role in the scam late last week.

“The court charged Seng Salen, a fixer for the company, with the act of selling, buying or exchanging a person for cross-border transfer,” he said.

“We will give the passports to the migrant workers whenever we get a letter from the court” to release the documents, he added.

Neak Heng, a coordinator for the National Union Alliance Chambers of Cambodia, said he went with the workers to the court at 2 p.m. to ask that officials speed up the process of returning their money and passports.

“They wanted the court to put pressure on the company owner to get a refund and they wanted the court to provide their passports and to find the company owner so that he can be punished according to the law,” he said.

Outside the courthouse, Sen Sopheas, 33, said that she and many other workers had taken out loans from microfinance institutions to pay the recruiter and needed their passports back in order to travel to Thailand to make enough money to pay back their loans.

“I need money to pay back the microfinance lender, which is why I need to find another job in Thailand,” she said.

After protesting for more than an hour, Mr. Heng said he was allowed to meet with deputy prosecutor Top Chhun Long, who is in charge of the case. “He said he is working on the case and that the fixer for the company is still in jail,” Mr. Heng said.

Mr. Chhun Long could not be reached for comment.

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