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Maid’s family seeks justice

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The family of a Cambodian maid that officials suspect was tortured to death in Malaysia will fly there shortly to file a complaint against her employers, a government spokesperson said yesterday.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Koy Kuong said the family of Mey Sichan, 22, from Kampong Thom province, had known of her death and directly contacted the Cambodian agency in Malaysia.  

“They will discuss with our embassy the legal process to demand compensation from the cruel employers and punish them in accordance with Malaysian law,” he said.

The Cambodian Embassy’s co-investigation with Malaysian authorities had resulted in the arrest of the maid’s employers, Soh Chew Tong and his wife Chin Chui Ling, he said.

Mey Sichan was thought to have died of physical torture, he said, adding that many injuries had been found on the corpse.

Malaysian police had previously told the Post that the pair had been arrested on Tuesday and were being investigated for murder, after a post mortem found that starvation was likely a reason for her demise on March 31.

Rights groups in Cambodia and Malaysia expressed outrage over the death yesterday, with Licadho and Community Legal Education Center representatives saying they would launch investigations into the case.

Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a temporary ban on sending maids to Malaysia in October that has still not been lifted after a rash of abuses surfaced.

Liva Sreedharan, anti-trafficking programme officer at Tenaganita, said the Malaysian NGO had handled a large number of cases in 2011 in which employers had starved their Cambodian maids, a “disgusting and appalling” practice. Sreeharan said the root of abuse lay in Malaysian employers’ attitudes towards their domestic help, coupled with a lack of legal protections.

“Employers think that now they’ve paid 9,000 ringgit [US$2,939], she’s fully mine, she’s my servant, I can treat her however I want to treat her and the state has my back,” she said.

The situation was exacerbated by a lack of systemisation, with policies varying across sending countries and clauses in bilateral memorandums of understanding that could be exploited by agencies and employers, she added.

“There has to be a standardised contract; government agencies have to work together with NGOs to prepare contracts, not with agencies which work not with maids’ well-being in mind but towards profiteering,” she said.

Moeun Tola, head of CLEC’s labour project, said protection measures were long overdue.  

“All these issues [abuse] are not strange, not surprising to me when I hear of another maid coming with a trauma problem. It’s a repeated issue, from 2010, 2011, 2012, because there is no mechanism,” he said.

MLC Labour Supply Company, the recruitment firm that had sent Mey Sichan to Malaysia, also came under fire recently when two of their maids returned claiming abuse by their employers and MLC’s partner agency in Malaysia.

An MLC staffer told the Post yesterday that he was not aware of the cases and that his boss had flown to Malaysia.

To contact the reporters on this story: Phak Seangly at phak.seangly@phnompenhpost.com
Cassandra Yeap at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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