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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian embassy ignored exploited workers, says NGO

Cambodian embassy ignored exploited workers, says NGO

Cambodian embassy ignored exploited workers, says NGO

But diplomats in Kuala Lumpur say they did everything they could to

help, adding that the whole spat was a just a 'misunderstanding'.

AN NGO that works with Cambodian migrants blasted the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia on Wednesday for refusing to help a family of six Cambodians in need of help, but the embassy says that it did all it could to aid the illegal migrants.

CARAM (Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility) accused the embassy of turning away six migrant workers who had been working illegally at a coffee factory under harsh conditions.

"Diplomats have to protect their people when they have problems, take care of them, support them, and they should not expel them from their own embassy," Ya Navuth, the executive director of CARAM, said.

He worried that the incident would deter exploited workers in the future from seeking help from the Cambodian government and called on the Cambodian government to take a close look at whether that embassy was fulfilling its duties.

"Labourers will be afraid to go to the embassy if they have a similar problem.... The Cambodian government should re-examine its embassy in Malaysia," he said.

Pov Chansarath, one of the six illegal migrants, said on Wednesday after returning to Phnom Penh with the help of CARAM that, when they travelled to Kuala Lumpur, they requested shelter at the embassy but were denied because of their lack of papers.

"As we had nowhere to stay, we decided to ask Vantha [an   embassy employee] to allow us to stay in the embassy for a short time, but he rejected us, saying ... he was afraid of getting involved with illegal immigrants, so he told us to go away."

The embassy in Malaysia confirmed that the family had sought help from them but said the family refused to work with them after they asked the family to report the coffee factory to the Malaysian authorities.

The family rejected their help, according to the embassy, because "they worried the police would arrest them".

But the embassy says they "always find assistance with the Malaysian authorities", and that they work well together.

"If an employer makes a mistake we will take action, but the victims have to cooperate with the embassy," the embassy said, adding that the whole spat was just a "misunderstanding".

The embassy said that it simply did not have a place for the family to stay but that it was able to secure a special pass from the Malaysian government, allowing them to return home lawfully even though they entered illegally.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said  the family's story should be a  warning to Cambodians thinking of emigrating and encouraged the victims to share their experience,

"Because they crossed the border illegally ... it was difficult for the embassy to help them. Therefore, everybody must be aware that to look for a job in another country through brokers and to cross the border illegally is a big risk for them," he said.

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