A DRAFT sub-decree designed to protect migrant workers and better regulate the labour recruitment industry has been finalised, a Labour Ministry official announced yesterday.
Speaking at a workshop in the capital that focused on strengthening migrant workers’ rights in the ASEAN region, Nhem Kimhuoy said Labour Minister Vong Soth had recently signed the sub-decree, which he said improved and expanded on regulations first introduced in 1995.
“We have to protect migrant workers like other workers,” he said. “This afternoon, I will send a sub-decree that helps to promote workers’ rights to the Council of Ministers.”
Though he did not spell out all of the sub-decree’s stipulations, he said it would require recruitment companies to deposit US$100,000 with the ministry that could be used to assist workers sent abroad “when problems occurred”.
The workshop, which was attended by government officials and representatives of about 20 NGOs, came one day after the rights group Adhoc said it had received 28 complaints from women who claimed to have been abused while working as domestic servants in Malaysia, a figure that activists said marked a sharp increase over previous years.
The workers said they had experienced violence, poor working and living conditions, and illegal detention.
Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, minister counsellor at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that he had been “very surprised” to hear of the complaints.
“Reports of abuse of Cambodian workers in Malaysia is quite new to us,” and Malaysian officials would investigate the issue, he said. “We are not taking this matter lightly.”.
He said the embassy intended to find ways to work with Cambodian recruitment agencies to ensure that migrant workers were informed of their rights before leaving their home country, and that they were informed about ways they could seek help while abroad.
“They need to be aware that when they are in Malaysia they are not alien to the country, they can always find assistance in many ways if they have a problem. If not to their embassy in Kuala Lumpur, they can always go to the local authorities in Malaysia, either the police or the immigration, or the ministry itself in charge of the workers,” he said.
He added that there were also many outside organisations doing a “good job of assisting” migrant workers.
He said the number of Cambodian workers in Malaysia had increased this year compared to previous years, though he did not have exact figures at hand.
“Every month we receive quite a big number of applications from Cambodian workers to Malaysia,” he said. “Most of them are domestic aids.”
He said there was a high demand for migrant workers in the domestic aid sector, and that the Malaysian government was committed to protecting those employed in it.
“They are contributing something to the country, so of course we have to take care of them,” he said.
Nhem Kimhuoy said yesterday that migrant workers were important contributors to the Kingdom’s economic growth, and that the new sub-decree was a sign that the Cambodian government, too, was committed to protecting them.
Cambodian workers can earn up to $300 per month in Thailand and Malaysia, or $200 per month in Korea, and remit a total of about US$300 million annually, he said.
Portions of the new sub-decree published in a local newspaper last month stated that recruitment firms would be prohibited from detaining trainees or loaning them money.
Nhem Kimhuoy said yesterday that he expected the sub-decree to be approved by government “at the end of this year or early next year”.