Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Strings attached to Thai firm’s offer

Strings attached to Thai firm’s offer

Strings attached to Thai firm’s offer

Cambodia migrant workers seeking to leave allegedly exploitative conditions at the Phatthana Seafood factory in southern Thailand said yesterday that they were still being forced to pay to get their passports back.

The factory, which exports fish to buyers across the world including Walmart, has come under fire from its migrant employees, who have said they were tricked on pay conditions, while rights groups allege the workers are victims of human trafficking.

Since Cambodian workers at the factory, which also sources labour from Myanmar and Thailand, began a strike of about 800 people on Sunday, the workers had been allowed to leave but only if they paid to do so, protest leader Sok Sorng said yesterday.

“Before we protested, they would charge 6,000 baht [US$194] for the passport, and when we wanted to go back, they did not allow us,” he said. “But after we protested for a few days, we are allowed to come back home if we want. We spend only 1,000 baht.”

The money is allegedly supposed to reimburse the Cambodian company that sent them there, CDM Trading Manpower.

Heng Sophea, communications officer at CDM Trading Manpower, said yesterday all workers who wanted to return had been allowed to do so, but he declined to specify whether  this required the workers to pay money.

“We gave the right to them after we found a solution,” she said, before declining to comment further.

Phatthana Seafood could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Andy Hall, foreign expert at Mahidol University’s Institute of Population and Social Research in Bangkok, said grave breaches of contract had been committed by CDM and Phatthana, which had severely exploited the workers.

“There is some kind of offer from the broker to allow people to go home temporarily, which is linked to the debt bondage issue. The offer is not unconditional, and seems to confuse the situation because it seems to suggest that CDM are not at fault,” Hall said.

The workers have been demanding the company restore a 20 baht daily food allowance and 20 baht hard work bonus they have said was stripped after their salaries were increased to meet a new minimum wage in Songkhla province.

Before this, the workers had also told the Post fees for living expenses and passports not mentioned in their original contracts had been deducted from their salaries.

Officials at the Cambodian and Thai ministries of labour could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at [email protected]
David Boyle at [email protected]

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all