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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Maid’s body bound for home

Maid’s body bound for home

Maid’s body bound for home

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Cambodian domestic migrant workers are handed travelling documents and money by an employee from a labour recruitment firm before boarding a flight to Malaysia last month.

The parents of a domestic migrant worker who died in Malaysia just over a week ago had accepted that she passed away from natural causes as part of an agreement that allowed them to repatriate her body, opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua told the Post yesterday.

At a press conference earlier yesterday, Mu Sochua said 42-year-old Ob Kuon had died on November 7 after being sent to Malaysia by labour firm VC Manpower, which had subsequently informed the family.

She then demanded a full investigation into the death.

But late yesterday, Mu Sochua said that after visiting the Ministry of Interior that afternoon, the deceased woman’s family had signed a perplexing agreement in which they accepted that their daughter had died abroad from natural causes.

“The parents agreed that it was caused by natural death. In a couple of days, they will return the body,” she said. “[They] negotiated for, number one, the return of the body; number two, they would like to go and get the body and bring the body back; and number three, they want the full salary [owed to the deceased].”

The woman’s family, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached yesterday. The agreement follows the revelation last week that a total of nine Cambodian domestic migrant workers had died in Malaysia this year alone, alongside a spate of abuse scandals in the sector that have included allegations of rape and torture.

Last month, Cambodia temporarily banned labour firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia and ordered them to clear out their training centres after raids on a series of firms, including VC Manpower, revealed that workers had been recruited below the minimum age and forcibly detained.

So Soy, an assistant at VC Manpower company, declined to comment, saying that only company director Sen Ly, who had been arrested and detained by police, was permitted to talk to the press. Sen Ly was charged with illegal human detention in September after a series of incidents in one of VC Manpower’s training centres that included the discovery of 24 under-age recruits by officials in July and an escape attempt out of a three-story window by a trainee in September.

Earlier, SRP lawmaker Nuth Rumdoul told the press conference that three other women from Kampong Speu province had been missing in Malaysia for the past two years.

Mu Sochua said yesterday it was time to move on from focusing on daily cases of abuse and use the ban to leverage Malaysia, which provided “zero mechanisms” to prevent abuse, into a binding bilateral agreement that ensured protections.

She also presented a draft standardised contract that requires employer and employee to agree on basic terms of employment such as the worker’s duties, meal times, days off, breaks and sick leave. In addition, the contract provides fixed overtime rates, ensures the employee is paid on a monthly basis and provides a guaranteed rest day, which Mu Sochua argued was an important mechanism to ensure workers had freedom to support one another outside of work.

Bayen Lok, second vice-president of Malaysia’s Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (PAPA), said he supported the standardised contract, but could only ensure it was enforced among his members, which number about 200 of about 1,000 domestic labour firms operating in Malaysia.

“Yes, the contract is important, but it must be enforceable,” he said, adding that his association took human rights very seriously and would blacklist companies within it that violated the law or report them to the government.

“Unscrupulous” agencies outside of PAPA were deducting as much nine months’ salary from domestic workers’ contracts, he said, while firms within his association took only four months and would reduce this to nothing if Cambodian sending companies could reduce their hefty recruitment fees.

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