The Labor Ministry yesterday said it had started an investigation into the alleged confinement of a 31-year old mother at a Phnom Penh recruitment agency where she broke her ankle and heel while trying to escape on Monday. “I cannot explain the case, but my staff are investigating,” said Choub Naruth, deputy director of the Labor Ministry’s department of manpower and employment. “We have a legal policy warning that the recruitment of workers should not involve detention.”
Just after 12 am on Monday, Heng Hak tied lengths of fabric together in order to climb down from the third floor of T&P Co Ltd in Stung Meanchey district, where she was training to become a maid in Malaysia. When a company worker sounded an alarm, she jumped and injured herself.
She had moved into the company’s offices from her home in Pursat province’s Bakan district in October to seek a better future for her 12-year-old and 13-year-old sons.
Duong Bunn, chief of the trauma ward at Preah Kossamak Hospital, said yesterday that Ms Hak’s injuries were serious and that she needed to be operated on as soon as possible.
“Even if the operation goes well she will lose 40 percent of her walking ability,” he said, adding that he was awaiting approval from Ms Hak’s family before proceeding with the operation.
Huy Pichsavann, labor program officer for the Community Legal Education Center, said that once Ms Hak had recovered, CLEC would offer her legal advice.
“The victims claims that she decided to jump because the manager did not allow her to see her children,” he said. “She tried to ask many times but the company still rejected her.”
T&P’s general manager, Sam Pisey, could not be reached yesterday.
Rights groups say that recruitment companies in Cambodia are known for exploiting Cambodians through illegal detention after loaning them money.
The Labor Ministry sent a letter to recruitment agencies last August ordering companies not to loan money to recruits, as it encouraged human trafficking. The letter also told the companies that confining workers against their will was illegal.
“What these companies are doing violates the law,” said Sem Chausok, municipal monitor for the rights group Licadho.