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Malaysia asks foreign maids to study rights

FOREIGN maids working in Malaysia will be required to attend training courses to learn about their “rights and responsibilities”, Malaysian media have reported, a development likely to affect thousands of Cambodians preparing to head there in search of jobs, but rights organisations warn that domestic workers are still vulnerable to mistreatment.

Beginning next month, new foreign maids and their employers will attend mandatory courses aimed at “improving working relations”, according to Malaysia’s New Straits Times.

The country is reliant on foreign domestic workers. More than 200,000 foreign maids are currently working there, according to the paper.

Some officials say they believe more Cambodians will seek work in Malaysia, partly due to the Kingdom’s recent political tensions with Thailand.

“There are about 3,000 to 4,000 domestic workers sent to work as maids in Malaysia per year, and it will increase more,” said An Bun Hak, director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies.

Rights groups continue to be wary of how such workers are treated, particularly undocumented ones.

Under Malaysian labour laws, “domestic servants” are not entitled to the same rights as regular “employees”. Domestic workers, for example, are exempted from receiving mandatory rest days and limits on weekly work hours.

“All the benefits that other workers enjoy, like medical leave, days off and overtime, all that is excluded,” said Glorene Dass, programme director at migrant labour group Tenaganita in Malaysia.

‘Modern-day slavery’
Dass said her organisation has handled many cases of Cambodians who appear to have been trafficked into the country.

“When you don’t pay a worker for six months, that’s bondage. They’re confined, working without rest. That’s servitude. That’s modern-day slavery,” she said.

At the same time, promises to reform labour laws in Malaysia have so far gone unfulfilled.

“There needs to be more than employers and workers attending a half-day course,” Dass said. “There has to be recognition of domestic workers as workers.”

According to the group
CARAM Cambodia, there are more than 10,000 documented Cambodians working in Malaysia, and the total including undocumented workers is thought to be much higher.

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