M’sia Draws on Cambodian Maid To Meet Demand

A freeze on Indonesian maids working in Malaysia has led to a threefold increase of Cambodian domestic workers there, the head of the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies said yesterday.

“I don’t know the number off hand but it has increased more than three times. We are seeing quite a lot of Cambodian maids now since Indonesia stopped sending them,” Alwi bin Bavutty said by telephone yesterday.

In an interview with the Malay Mail newspaper yesterday, Mr Bavutty said between 1,500 and 3,000 Cambodian domestic workers have been arriving in Malaysia every month since June, at which time Indonesia banned its citizens from working in Malaysia after failing to reach an agreement with the government concerning the rights of migrant workers.

“Malaysia has a high need for domestic workers,” said Bruno Maltoni, project coordinator at the International Organization for Migration in Phnom Penh. “The Cambodian government tries to facilitate that migration through agencies.”

But some human rights organizations have raised concerns that the maltreatment Indonesia was keen to prevent is simply being inflicted on others.

A comprehensive study of Cambodian maids in Malaysia last July by Philippines-based NGO Migrant Forum in Asia found domestic laborers face precarious work conditions which can even include pay withholding and physical abuse. Little has changed since then, project coordinator Lorena Mecabag said yesterday.

“For many migrant domestic workers, they are still not covered under the labor code. They don’t have proper hours–there’s no limit, employers get to set them. The government did declare domestic laborers could have one day off, but we haven’t seen this implemented,” she said.

Ultimately, however, whether migrants in Malaysia are in danger depends on the actions of the sending country, added Ms Mecabag.

“It boils down to the responsibilities of the sending country…. So far, I have not heard of any initiative by Cambodia to assist workers there. Many workers don’t even know there is an embassy.”


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