UN Pushes Government to Ratify Migrant Worker Treaty

The United Nations and a government official from the Philippines yesterday asked Cambodia to use its position as Asean chair to push countries in the region to ratify a UN convention aimed at protecting the rights of migrant workers.

Speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh where the UN launched a Khmer language version of the International Convention on Promotion and Protection of Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families, officials said the recent spate of reports of abuse against Cambodian maids in Malaysia should push Cambodia to ratify the convention.

“The problems faced by Cambodian migrant workers…have become very serious in recent months, and as Asean chair, Cambodia should show leadership on this issue,” said Catherine Phuong, coordinator for the rule of law unit at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia.

Ms. Phuong added that from 2010 until 2011, local rights group Adhoc had recorded a 100 percent increase in complaints from migrant workers working abroad.

In October, Cambodia put a ban on sending all domestic workers to work in Malaysia, where reports of physical abuse against maids often surface.

“But if it [Cambodia] is serious about the issue, it would cement this on a legal, international level,” Ms. Phuong said.

Cambodia signed the convention in 2004. The convention states that migrant workers should not be forced to remain in a foreign country against their will and should not be subject to torture or be held in a state of servitude.

Although 45 countries have ratified the treaty, the Philippines is the only Asean country to have done so. Jose Brillantes, an undersecretary of state for the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs, also said at the conference that Cambodia should hurry up and ratify the convention.

“Cambodia is Asean chair this year, and could show leadership on the issue by ratifying the treaty. [The treaty] needs more Asian representation; it depends on a network of sending and destination countries,” he said. “It’s about time another Asean member-preferably Cambodia-joins.”

Asked on the sidelines to yesterday’s conference if Cambodia would ratify the convention, Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi said she agreed that it should be done.

“I have no right to say whether Cambodia will or will not ratify the convention, but the content is good and we should ratify it,” she said.

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