THE Ministry of Labour will launch a new comprehensive labour migration policy next month as a means of improving the safety of migrant workers and setting up a framework to monitor agencies that recruit Cambodians to work overseas, officials and representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said.
Pracha Vasuprasat, chief technical adviser at the ILO/Japan Project on Managing Cross Border Movement of Labour in Southeast Asia, said Cambodia lacks a concrete framework to regulate migrant labourers, but that the ministry is in the process of formulating a new sub-decree that will be made public next month. He said the sub-decree will focus on improving labour migration governance, the protection of migrant workers and utilisation of the migrant workforce to aid development.
The new policy “will be the first for a country in Southeast Asia”, Pracha said. “It will definitely have impacts on the lives of Cambodian migrant workers, their families and the overall national development goals”.
Cambodia’s current labour migration laws do not contain any mechanisms for monitoring private recruitment agencies and make no provisions for sanctions or fines against agencies found to be responsible for mistreating migrant workers.
“In the new sub-decree, there will be some articles that cover the monitoring of recruitment agencies,” said Chuop Narath, deputy director of the Department of Employment at the Labour Ministry. “They must respect their contract with the ministry; otherwise they could be fined or their licences could be revoked.”
Any companies found guilty of human trafficking, he added, will be punished under the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Law.
Tales of abuse are common among Cambodian migrant workers. In May, a group of eight men returned to Cambodia and reported escaping last year from a fishing vessel on which they had been forced to work like “slaves”. This month, a group of 34 labourers were freed by police from a meat-processing plant in Thailand, where they had been abused by their employers.
Chuop Narath said migrant workers need protection when they are recruited, while they are employed and after they complete their contract and try to “reintegrate” into Cambodia.
“We hope that when the new policy is enforced it will better protect our migrant workers abroad,” he added.