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‘Bring daughter home’

South Korean President Park Geun-hye
South Korean President Park Geun-hye arrives for a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Saturday. AFP

‘Bring daughter home’

Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked the president of South Korea to send the daughter of a deceased Cambodian woman to the Kingdom if her Korean husband is found guilty of murdering her.

In a televised speech that coincided with bilateral meetings in Seoul, the premier called on Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s president, to allow the 5-year-old girl to be raised by her maternal grandparents.

“I propose the Korean government, via the president, send the woman’s daughter back to her homeland so she can live with her grandparents – if the court finds her mother really was murdered,” he said.

Y Silen died in a traffic accident in South Korea in August. Her husband, known only by his family name “Lee”, was driving the vehicle but survived. Silen was found to have had sleeping pills in her blood.

Lee has since been arrested and investigated for murder amid reports that he could stand to collect up to $8.6 million worth of life insurance as a result of Silen’s death. It is not clear whether Lee has been charged.

Park responded to Hun Sen’s request by saying she would follow any court process closely and consider taking action, though she did not elaborate on what this might involve.

According to a letter signed by Cambodia’s ambassador to South Korea Suth Dina – obtained by the Post on Saturday – the embassy in Seoul has already requested the girl be sent to Cambodia if her father is found guilty. Dina could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The victim’s mother, Ouk Saveng, said earlier this month that her granddaughter did not speak Khmer and could be better off where she was.

“It is also good if she still lives in Korea because her future will be better there,” she said.

But Saveng demanded yesterday that authorities bring back her granddaughter, who visited her in Tbong Khmum province earlier this year.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye
South Korean President Park Geun-hye (right) shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen after a signing ceremony at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Saturday. AFP

“Before I thought that her mother had been killed accidentally . . . but now her father is in jail,” she said. “I want her to live with me so I can look after her.”

Saveng added that she expected any process to gain custody of her granddaughter would be difficult, but added that the girl needed to be raised by family in a loving environment.

During his visit to South Korea, Hun Sen also called on Park to accept more Cambodian workers to the country as well as help to improve their skills.

“Every president of South Korea I talk to, I always tell them to help Cambodian workers in their country,” he said, during a speech to workers on Friday.

Migration of Cambodian workers to South Korea, Hun Sen added, should not only have financial benefits; workers should also be able to gain skills they can bring back home to help develop their own country.

“We have to expand this relationship,” he said.

Hun Sen urged the president to create a university in Cambodia where prospective workers in South Korea could learn the language.

He also called on the Kingdom’s embassy officials to pay attention to Cambodians arriving and living in South Korea.

“Do not allow conditions that will encourage more illegal workers to go to another country,” he said. “The roughly 450 illegal workers in Korea have no insurance, low salaries, no long-term working contracts and are always having to evade Korean authorities.”

The prime minister also urged Cambodians in South Korea to avoid tarnishing the Kingdom’s reputation by engaging in violent, “gangster” behaviour.

In October, an Amnesty International report highlighted the problems migrant workers to South Korea face.

In the farming sector, intimidation, violence and excessive working hours without days off were among the abuses reported.

Late last month, National Assembly president Heng Samrin called for South Korea to provide better conditions for Cambodians who go there for work.

Hun Sen is wrapping up a four-day visit in which he was scheduled to attend the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, meet with Cambodian workers and sign bilateral agreements covering education, business, intellectual property, health care and medical science, and banking and finance.

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