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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Maid ban to remain until safety improves

Maid ban to remain until safety improves

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A migrant worker trained to work as a maid in Malaysia stands behind the front gate of a recruitment firm in Phnom Penh last year. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

The ban on sending Cambodian women for employment as maids in Malaysia will be lifted once certain safety and training precautions for workers are established, a senior government official said yesterday.

Seng Sakada, the director general of the Ministry of Labour, said that his office is developing procedures, such as pre-departure training for workers, and sending them to the International Labor Organization in Bangkok for review.

Three of six precaution mechanisms have already been completed.

“When everything is complete for our domestic workers, we will lift the ban,” Sakada said, speaking at the Phnom Penh Hotel as a two-day conference that focused on rights for women migrant workers came to a close.

Malaysia remains at the forefront of gender-based migrant worker issues in Cambodia. Of the 315 trafficked Cambodians who have been repatriated so far this year, 181 were maids, and most were from Malaysia.

The general picture painted by officials at the end of the conference was that Cambodia is confronting issues facing migrant workers, but that much work is still to be done.

“We are forming a working group with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to find ways, because we know there is a lack of procedure to manage the flow of workers going overseas,” said Chou Bun Eng, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior.

Sakada said that it is difficult for the government to help workers who travel across the border illegally.

“We need to encourage documented workers, with passports and insurance,” he said. “If they are illegal, then how can we address it?”

He also seemed to chide journalists in the room for seizing on negative experiences of migrant workers, saying they only made up for a fraction of Cambodians travelling abroad for employment.

“Don’t use bad stories,” he said. “Please, think about our [economic] benefits,” he added, saying that tens of thousands of Cambodians find jobs outside of the country’s borders.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Freeman at joseph.freeman@phnompenhpost.com

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