Two more women recruited from villages to work as maids in Malaysia by a government-licensed company returned at the weekend, saying they were penniless and scarred by abuse.
Both had been recruited by Philimore Cambodia Co Ltd, a member of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies. They said they had been beaten, forced to work long hours and not given enough food.
Hok Pov, 21, said she was paid for only one month after working for five months in a house as well as a factory. She said she worked from 4am to 1am.
“I had no day off,” she said. “I was forced to work in my employer’s house and at his factory. Sometimes he slapped me and pulled my hair. All he gave me to eat were noodles.”
Klich Sokong, 25,said her employer also hit her and forced her to work overtime. She had worked for a year without receiving payment, while the company that recruited her turned a deaf ear to complaints, she said.
“I could no longer endure it. I decided to escape from my employer and went to the police in Malaysia. They sent me to the Cambodian embassy.” The women returned with the help of the Community Legal Education Centre.
Opposition MP Mu Sochua said the fact no company had lost its licence or been sanctioned by the government suggested they were owned by well-connected individuals.
“Who owns these companies? Why do they seem to act with impunity? Why are these companies still operating freely?” she asked.
A letter sent to the Labour Ministry by the Sam Rainsy Party, to which she belongs, seeking answers to these questions had yet to be answered, she said. The government was protecting the companies, not regulating them, she said.
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor, declined to speak about a specific company, pointing instead to the recent approval of a new sub-decree aimed at protecting Cambodian workers abroad.
“I think it is a good and positive sub- decree,” he said, explaining that it would rein in all recruitment agencies that did not follow its regulations.
Mu Sochua has dismissed this as “a sub-decree for the sake of a sub-decree”, saying it allowed the government to appear to be taking action while it turns a blind eye to the abuses the women suffer once they are recruited.
ACRA president An Bunhak defended Philimore, saying it “is a member of the association and a legal recruitment agency”. He also disputed allegations that the recruiting company had not helped the women, saying it had filed police complaints in Malaysia but the women came home before Malaysian police could follow through.
Lao Lyhock, a director of Philimore Cambodia, said he was too busy to comment when contacted by the Post.