Ministry Orders Two Agencies to Repay Workers

The Ministry of Labor has ordered two recruitment agencies that duped 201 would-be migrant workers out of about $80,000 by promising jobs in Japan to reimburse the victims in order to be allowed to continue operating.

Rights group Adhoc held a press conference last week with workers who paid the Rice Natural and Century (Cambodia) Manpower agencies to be placed in jobs in Japan’s industrial, agricultural or construction sectors.

Months after paying more than $400 each, none were offered employment and the recruitment agency offices where they registered had disappeared.

On April 10, the Labor Ministry suspended operations at the agencies for 45 days. The ministry’s occupation and manpower department met on Monday with representatives of the two agencies and some of the victims to resolve the case.

“After they pay back the money, they can run as normal,” Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said on Wednesday. “The brothers and sisters [the workers] filed complaints asking for compensation, so we therefore resolved it that way.”

Mr. Sour said the companies were instructed to better manage their branches but would not be facing any other penalties as long as the money is repaid.

“The ministry controls their licenses, and the ministry has the right to suspend and withdraw licenses, but licenses are withdrawn only when there are violations again and again and the companies fail to improve,” he said.

Eng Keng, whose family borrowed about $2,500 to pay for six relatives to get jobs in Japan, said that she was not happy with the outcome.

“We want the ministry to shut down the companies after we get our money because we do not want them to continue to cheat other people,” she said.

Lim Mony, senior women’s affairs officer at Adhoc, said the government was sending a dangerous message by not taking stronger action.

“It creates a culture of impunity for other companies,” she said. “Now they know if they cheat workers and get caught, they can just pay them back and continue operating.”

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