The recruitment firm VC Manpower came under fire yesterday from a human rights group that claimed it had uncovered more evidence of illegal detention and underage workers at the company’s Phnom Penh training centers.
“The company asked me to deposit $500 to $600 if I wanted to leave, but I said I don’t have this amount of money,” said Srey Neang, a former VC Manpower trainee who fled the company on Sept 8. Interviewed on Sunday, Ms Srey Neang did not want to reveal her family name for fear of retribution.
Ms Srey Neang said she asked to visit the dentist and escaped as soon as she was allowed out of the training center. She is now afraid that the company will force her to back the debts they say she accrued during her almost four months with the firm.
“I worry that my parents and relatives will be in trouble if I go home,” she said.
Her case is not unusual, according to Hoy Pich Sovann, labor program project officer at the Community Legal Education Center. Mr Pich Sovann said the center received 15 complaints about VC Manpower from workers or their families yesterday.
“Four cases were of girls who are under 21 years old,” he said. VC Manpower is licensed by the Labor Ministry to send workers to Malaysia, which requires migrant workers to be at least 21.
The company’s general manager, Sen Ly, is currently in provisional detention at Prey Sar prison, according to Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Oeung Seang. Mr Ly was arrested on Sept 6, Judge Seang said. Deputy prosecutor Hing Bunchea said that Sen Ly was charged with illegal detention on Sept 3, a charge carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
Staff at VC Manpower denied allegations of wrongdoing yesterday.
“All workers are old enough under the law, no one was underage,” said Kim Ly, who identified himself as one of the company’s administrative staff.
Mr Kim Ly also claimed that Sen Ly was only the manager of one VC Manpower branch and that the company was “going well” without him.