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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ministry announces regulations on overseas employment firms

Ministry announces regulations on overseas employment firms

A new series of regulations for Cambodia’s recruitment agencies – many plagued with allegations of fraud, negligence and human trafficking – should mean a closer eye on firms in practice, but labour rights advocates remain dubious.

Speaking before a room of recruitment agency managers yesterday, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng officially put into effect a new sub-decree increasing protection of workers who find overseas employment through these firms.

“You must prepare, you must make your house stable,” Sam Heng said. “When you establish your company, you must be professional; because this is not a joke.”

The sub-decree’s eight prakases place requirements on recruitment agencies and the Ministry of Labour including consequences for failed inspections and a specific reporting mechanism for workers employed in abusive working conditions.

An abuse-reporting structure, which gives Labour Ministry officials 10 days to act on written complaints, is among the stronger points in the sub-decree, said Anna Olsen, technical officer for the International Labour Organization.

But a lack of specificity about monitoring and enforcement measures will make the sub-decree little more than lip service, said Huy Pichsovann, a program officer for the Community Legal Education Center.
In the past year, the Post reported numerous instances of domestic workers and fishermen recruited to work abroad, who returned home with tales of enslavement and physical abuse.

Prakases include provisions requiring recruitment agencies to submit reports of independent workplace inspections to the Labour Ministry and penalties for agencies that fall below the sub-decree’s standards.

But details including what will actually be inspected, frequency of inspections and how far a firm can deviate from the rules before license suspensions and revocations are imposed remain vague.

“The prakas are not powerful enough because there is no implementation [of enforcement],” Pichsovann said yesterday. “Most of the recruitment agency owners are relatives of high-ranking [government] officers . . . or they have connections.”

Ung Seang Rithy, head of the Association of Cambodian Recruiting Agencies, owns the Ung Rithy Group, which has repeatedly been accused of human trafficking, and is the sister of former police chief Sok Phal.

Additionally, said Dave Welsh, country director for labour rights group Solidarity Center, Cambodia has relatively little experience legislating migrant worker issues, when compared to ASEAN countries, such as the Philippines.

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