An human rights worker with the Community Legal Education Center said yesterday that four workers were being held against their will by the troubled recruitment firm VC Manpower, whose general manager was charged this month with illegal detention.
However the chairman of the Association of Cambodia Recruitment Agencies, an organization that does not include VC Manpower, said he thought the quartet had gone home.
The conflicting reports came outside of negotiations that were continuing late yesterday over details of the workers’ departure, with government officials arriving in the evening after talks failed to move forward.
Moeun Tola, head of the labor project at CLEC, said the workers “are not allowed to leave” the company’s training center in the capital.
VC Manpower has demanded that the four workers each pay back a loan of about $700 made to their families, according to Mr Tola, who said the four were being held illegally.
“I think if people want to go somewhere, it’s freedom of movement. We can’t stop them from moving,” Mr Tola said. “Regarding the loan, it is another thing. If it is an exact loan, they have to pay it back. But look at the facts. They didn’t understand it was a loan.”
The four women, all under 21, had signed contracts with the firm and received training for some four months, but recently decided they did not want to work as maids in Malaysia, according to Mr Tola.
Officials from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labor arrived late yesterday to take part in the negotiations, Mr Tola added.
Labor Ministry officials were unavailable or said they were unaware of the negotiations. A representative of VC Manpower also was unavailable.
An Bunhak, chairman of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said he thought the four workers had already gone home.
“I heard they’re gone already,” he said Mr Bunhak.
Mr Bunhak said maids should not be kept against their will, but that they should also pay back any loans they received. He added that VC Manpower has had “a lot of problems.”
The firm’s general manager, Sen Ly, was charged with illegal detention on Sept 3 and is being held in Prey Sar prison.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)