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Underage girls freed in labour crackdown

MORE than 30 girls believed to be underage have been discovered at two government-sanctioned labour-recruitment firms, accused of forcing clients to live in squalid conditions and denying them permission to leave, officials said yesterday.

The father of a 21-year-old woman who died during a training programme run by one of the firms said poor conditions had caused her sudden demise on Tuesday.

Nhem Kimhouy, a Ministry of Labour official, said authorities found 24 of the underage girls during a Tuesday raid on a centre in Sen Sok district run by the VC Manpower Co. Seven other girls were found during a raid last week on a second company, the Champa Manpower Group, he said.

The director of VC Manpower told authorities he had no idea underage workers were employed by his firm, which is licensed to train and send Cambodians to work as domestic helps in Malaysia, Nhem Kimhuoy said. “He said he already checked their forms to make sure they were not underage,” Nhem Kimhuoy said.

Officials at both companies could not be reached yesterday.

Under the 1995 sub-decree permitting the export of Cambodian labour, all prospective workers must be at least 18 years old.

Nhem Kimhuoy said the 31 girls had been sent to municipal anti-human trafficking police in Phnom Penh, and that authorities were trying to verify ages. Ministry officials ordered both firms to stop recruiting new workers until they can show conditions at their centres had improved, he said.

Last week, Russey Keo district officials accused Champa Manpower Group of illegally detaining some of the 232 women and girls found living in three of its villas. On Sunday, a woman who leaped from the second storey of a VC Manpower Co training centre said the company had refused to allow her to leave.

Yesterday, a Siem Reap man, Ream Vy, said that his 21-year-old daughter, Yun Mab, died on Tuesday while being held at the same facility.
“I suspect that she died because she did not eat enough food and she stayed in a difficult place,” he said.

However, Keo Thea, director of the municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said the woman succumbed to an undiagnosed case of leukemia.



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