A 35-year-old woman training at a Phnom Penh job recruitment agency to work as a maid overseas died at the company’s offices early Saturday morning, police and rights workers said yesterday.
Soeng Sina’s death inside the Sen Sok district training center of T&P Co Ltd came less than a week after another woman broke bones in both legs by leaping from the same building in an effort to escape what she described as imprisonment. The Labor Ministry said Friday that it had launched an investigation into the incident.
Also last week, a woman died while in the custody of a different Phnom Penh recruitment agency for overseas maids.
Soeng Sina, a mother of three from Kompong Cham province, died Saturday of a heart attack, according to district police chief Mak Hong. He said a forensic report from the National Police had confirmed the cause of death.
“The victim had been staying and training nearly four months at the T&P company, awaiting work overseas,” Mr Hong said.
Lanh Yaoma, deputy technical science officer in the National Police, said he had helped examine the body and that Soeng Sina had indeed died of a heart attack.
T&P general manager Sam Pisey could not be reached. However, Moeun Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, said in his view the cause of death was still uncertain.
“We are suspicious that, in the matter of her death, the company’s staff tried to hide information…and we have yet to know that she died of a heart attack because the police have not [made public] the medical examination.”
Mr Tola said T&P had already paid the victim’s family 3 million riel, or about $750, in compensation but he claimed the company had pressured the family not to talk to reporters or NGO workers.
Dr Chhy Brakab, a heart specialist at Preah Kossamak Hospital who did not treat or examine Soeng Sina, said heart attacks generally occurred in Cambodians older than 45 who had pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease. “For a person aged 35 to die of a heart attack would be very unusual,” he said.
Soeng Sina’s mother, Phuong Rom, 65, said she had arrived at the company’s offices from Kompong Cham at about midnight on Saturday, shocked and sobbing. She said her daughter had no history of high blood pressure or any other health issues.
“My daughter never had poor health or illness in her body,” she said. “I am very regretful about her death.”
Just after midnight last Monday, 31-year-old mother Heng Hak tied lengths of fabric together and tried to escape from T&P’s offices through a third-floor window. When a guard spotted her descending, she jumped the rest of the way, breaking an ankle and a heel.
She said afterward that she had been barred from leaving T&P’s offices or visiting her children.
She remained at Preah Kossamak Hospital yesterday in stable condition, and Dr Duong Bunn, head of the hospital’s trauma unit, said he hoped to operate on her ankle today.
On Feb 26, another woman died in the custody of a Phnom Penh recruitment firm while training to be a maid overseas. Choem Sopheap, 36, was apparently ill before she died at the offices of International Investment Services Company. Her husband later claimed the company had barred him from taking his wife for medical treatment.
“This is now the second case of a job recruitment company death early in the year,” said Mr Tola of CLEC. “I think authorities must open an investigation into this case.”
Labor Minister Vong Sauth declined to comment.