Migrant Workers Speak of Horrors in Malaysia

Representatives of 28 Cambodian migrant worker housemaids, who have returned to Cambodia after claiming to be severely mistreated by their employers in Malaysia, spoke of their ordeals at a news conference in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The women, who have returned to Cambodia separately with the assistance of human rights group Adhoc over the past few months, had been placed in employment in Malaysia by migrant labor firms in Cambodia.

One of the women, 17-year-old Nhon Vanna, said she was arrested by Malaysian police and jailed for eight months after she tried to escape from one her employer’s home, where she says she was forced to work in cruel conditions without being paid.

“I was forced to work very hard in four houses…. The owner of the houses did not allow me to go outside and my passport was confiscated as soon as I arrived in Malaysia,” she said, adding that local migrant worker broker Philimore Cambodia had organized her employment.

Another woman, Seng Bunren, 25, said she believed that about 80 percent of the employers that employed Cambodian women were bad. “I was detained in the house I worked in and fought many times with the owner,” she said. “They did not allow me to use the phone to call my family and they forced me to work nonstop from morning till night, every day.”

Sawada Chan Krisna, head of Adhoc’s women and children’s program, said that Adhoc had received 28 complaints from individual women about their working conditions in Malaysia and were preparing a report to send to the government. “The workers were forced to work, some were jailed and others were bitten or raped,” she said.

Sok Chanphakdey, the executive director of Philimore Cambodia, who helped place Ms Vanna with her Malaysian employer, said yesterday that he was unaware of her case. “If they go to my office, I would be able to help them,” he said, adding that he knew that some workers were mistreated.

“I think that not all of the employers are bad: maybe about 10 percent are bad,” he said. “If 80 percent were bad, I would not have been able to run my company until now.”


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