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ASEAN forum to tackle migrant worker safety

One of the biggest challenges to protecting Cambodian migrant workers is the sheer distance between their homeland and the countries they are working in, Ministry of Labour officials said yesterday.

A pattern has emerged in which brokers lure more and more Cambodians away from traditional border-country migration to far-flung places like Korea and Indonesia, said Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Vong Soth during a preliminary regional conference ahead of the ASEAN forum on migrant worker protection to be held in Phnom Penh next month.

“I urge ASEAN labour ministry members to hurry and prepare protection documents as soon as possible to release a declaration to protect migrant workers,” he said, adding that bilateral memoranda of understanding were also crucial instruments.

ASEAN “plus countries” such as Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Korea and Hong Kong, many of which have bilateral migrant worker agreements and frameworks with Cambodia, also sent representatives to attend the two-day conference.

Emphasising the need for these bilateral arrangements with countries that are more distant from Cambodia, Ministry of Women’s Affairs Secretary of State San Arun, singled out Malaysia’s feet-dragging on a migrant worker MoU.

“Even though Malaysia delays to meet with us to draft an MoU to combat human trafficking, we still try to do it by meeting face-to-face to speed up this job to protect our residents,” she said, pointing out that such sidelines meetings were scheduled for the ASEAN labour forum next month.

“The ASEAN forum next month is a good time for ASEAN members to join together to protect migrant workers, because migration-related issues cross into other countries, not  just one country,” she said.  

According to a report from the National Police Commissioner, 113 people have been arrested in the first eight months of 2012 for involvement in human and sex trafficking rackets. A total of 315 trafficked Cambodians have been repatriated so far – 181 were maids, mostly from Malaysia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at



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