Many Cambodian household workers in Malaysia face human rights abuses—confiscation of their passports, harsh working conditions and sexual and physical assaults—according to a Human Rights Watch report released Thursday.
The report “Household Workers’ Rights Trampled” cites testimonies from maids who said they had been beaten, raped or forced to work long hours.
“[D]omestic workers are treated like second-class humans,” said LaShawn Jefferson, executive director of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
Although the report focuses mainly on Indonesian migrants, some 3,000 Cambodians have migrated to Malaysia in the past five years for work, predominantly for domestic service, said Tep Mony, program director of the NGO Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility.
Through her interviews with Cambodian women who returned from Malaysia, Tep Mony said she found that employers almost always confiscated their passports, forcing them to work long hours with little chance for escape.
“[Maids] should have the right to hold the passport because this belongs to the migrant worker,” Tep Mony said. Sexual and physical abuses were rare, she added.
Chuor Vichet, the owner of Philimore Cambodia Co, a labor broker for Cambodian maids in Malaysia, confirmed that employers often hold maids’ passports.
“They don’t allow them to use the passport, because they don’t want them to run away,” he said Thursday. He said employers often give the maids identification cards to use during their two-year contracts. He denied workers were subject to sexual abuse.
Philimore came under fire earlier this year when a woman fled a training compound in Phnom Penh, complaining she had been forced to stay there. The company is one of eight firms licensed by the Ministry of Social Affairs to serve as labor brokers to Malaysia.
Chuor Eangly, deputy director of employment and manpower, said Thursday he will ask Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng to investigate the allegations when he travels to Malaysia next week.