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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodians ‘in custody’ in Malaysia

Cambodians ‘in custody’ in Malaysia

Three Cambodian mi­grants are reportedly being held by Malaysian immigration authorities after complaining of poor working conditions at a house-cleaning company they had been connected with through a Cambodian overseas recruitment firm.

Mao Na, 42, said that her daughter, Tha Siney, 21, migrated alongside six women from Tamoul Grom village in Kampong Chhnang province to Malaysia to work with the H2O cleaning company through APTSE & C Cambodia Resource company last May.

Siney, along with Soth Sok, 19, and Hout Saren, 19, was “arrested” outside their shared residence on January 16, said Na. They had previously complained of not being paid and of a lack of food, she said.

According to Lay Em, an investigator for rights group Adhoc, the girls’ mothers had appealed to the group to help their daughters return home.

Em said that since the workers had migrated to Malaysia in May, before the current MoU with the Malaysian government was put in place to facilitate international migrant work in December, the women were working there illegally.

Thorn Nom, 42, the mother of another Cambodian migrant there, said that her daughter and the three other migrants not in custody were laying low to avoid arrest.

“I thought the [recruitment firm] was reliable, because we heard of the firm through our village chiefs, which is why I let my children go,” she said.

Seng Setthy Chey, executive director of the recruitment firm, denied the mothers’ allegations, saying that he had tried to move the disgruntled migrants to a new company when they requested to return home.

“They didn’t want to work anymore, so the [Malaysian] police have bought their airplane tickets and they are expected to come back next week,” he said, adding that salaries were not paid to the workers but sent to their families by the company.

Both mothers said they had received no money. Malay authorities could not be reached.

The Cambodian government has been roundly criticised over faulty regulation of overseas recruitment firms. Thousands of migrants have travelled to Malaysia from Cambodia.

Reports of the rape, beating and murder of Cambodian migrants by Malaysian employers have been shockingly common, with some complicity from Malaysian authorities reported as well.

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