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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Parliament OKs deal to send migrant labourers to Kuwait

Parliament OKs deal to send migrant labourers to Kuwait

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A student checks a job advertisement board in Phnom Penh. Following an agreement between Cambodia and Kuwait, job seekers will soon be able to secure work in the Middle Eastern country.

Agreement to supply workers to the emirate, awaiting Senate approval, would pave way for Cambodians to learn more about the oil and gas sector, official says

PARLIAMENT last month approved an agreement with Kuwait allowing Cambodians to work in the Gulf state, an official said Sunday.

Um Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said the final step was for the Senate to approve the deal.

"After that both parties will set up a joint task force to study the job requirements in more detail," Um Mean said, adding that Kuwait has already approved the deal.

The two states signed a memorandum of understanding late last year on the issue of migrant workers.

An Bun Hak, the president of the Cambodian Recruitment Agency, which has permission from the ministry to provide workers for the scheme, said most jobs would be in oil and gas as well as hospitality.

"We will lead a delegation to gauge the job market in Kuwait early next month and investigate it in-depth," he said, adding that monthly wages would be around US$350.

The agreement follows a deal between the two states allowing Kuwait to lease tracts of Cambodian land to grow food.

An Bun Hak said that for cultural reasons Cambodia's Cham Muslim minority would likely benefit most from the scheme, although he stressed that his firm would not discriminate.

"We will recruit both Cambodian Muslim workers and non-Muslim workers," he said. "But Cambodia's Cham Muslim people will have more ability because they will be able to adapt to Kuwait's culture more quickly than other Cambodians."

He said the first workers - a trial group of up to 200 people - would be sent to Kuwait before the end of the year.

"Kuwait has not set a quota, so we hope to send between 6,000 and 7,000 workers each year," An Bun Hak said, adding that workers in the oil and gas sector would gain valuable skills for Cambodia's upcoming resources industry.

Thun Saray, the president of local human rights group Adhoc, welcomed the deal, saying it is important that the government does what it can to help Cambodians find work.

"What worries me is the laws protecting workers," he said. "Before the government allows people to work overseas, it should provide them with information about working conditions so they can avoid disputes. They must be properly informed about where they will be working."

Cambodia's 20 private recruitment agencies have to date sent 21,000 migrant workers to South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. Wages vary widely, with a worker in South Korea able to earn up to $700 per month. In Malaysia they can earn between $120 and $150 per month, while wages in Thailand are $80 to $120.

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