Recruitment Agencies Dupe Clients Out of $80K

Two labor recruitment agencies duped 201 workers out of about $80,000 by promising to find them employment in Japan and then disappearing with the cash, rights group Adhoc said at a press conference in Phnom Penh with some of the workers Thursday.

Adhoc president Thun Saray said the workers paid the Rice Natural and Century (Cambodia) Manpower agencies to be placed in jobs in Japan’s industrial, agricultural or construction sectors.

Mr. Saray said Adhoc received complaints from victims in early April and notified the Labor Ministry, which on April 10 temporarily suspended the companies’ activities for 45 days until the cases were resolved. On Thursday, Mr. Saray said the response was insufficient.

“The Ministry of Labor has to take measures immediately and withdraw their licenses,” he said.

“This is a fraud case, so please, court and ministry, make arrests for prosecution by the law,” he added, saying that punishment would act as a deterrent to other recruitment agencies considering defrauding workers.

Kan Sichan, 28, said that she deposited $400 with the Rice Natural agency in November after being told she could earn $1,200 per month working in a factory in Japan. About two months later, she inquired about the status of her future employment.

“When I arrived at the company branch [in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district], it was gone and then I knew that the company was cheating me,” she said.

A man who answered the telephone at the Rice Natural agency Thursday refused to identify himself and said he did not know the whereabouts of company director Phun Sovanrith. Century (Cambodia) Manpower agency could not be reached.

Mr. Saray said that upon registration with the Labor Ministry, recruitment agencies must deposit $100,000 with the ministry as a bankruptcy reserve.

“We want the Labor Ministry to withdraw money which has been deposited by the companies at the ministry and pay back the victims,” he said, adding that Adhoc would also offer legal representation to the victims to sue the firms.

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, who has been tasked with overseeing migrant affairs for the CNRP, said that the Labor Ministry was unable to monitor recruitment agencies efficiently.

“You need to monitor them, and monitoring by law should be done by the Ministry of Labor,” she said. “But the Ministry of Labor only receives 1.4 percent of the national budget and the number of officials and monitors is very low; even with the highest level of political will, this is a task that is not achievable.”

Labor Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached.

(Additional reporting by Alex Consiglio)

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