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Scammed migrant workers protest outside a recruitment firm office after travelling to Sen Sok district
Scammed migrant workers protest outside a recruitment firm office after travelling to Sen Sok district in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon. Vireak Mai

We were scammed: workers

Pressure is building against a recruitment firm in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, as nearly 100 workers from different provinces travelled to the company’s offices yesterday to demand the recruiter pay back fees for jobs in Thailand that never materialised.

Tan Naven, chief of Teuk Thla commune, where the Koun Khmer Training Center is located, said the aggrieved workers came straight from the border with Thailand carrying only their luggage.

“Local authorities went to intervene to make the company find a solution for the workers,” said Navin, who claimed that the company has been in his commune for nearly a year, and that it is licensed with the Ministry of Labour.

Reports of problems with the centre began last week, when five workers repatriated from Thailand said they had relied on Koun Khmer’s services only to be rebuffed after crossing the border and sent back to Cambodia. Others were from a firm called R&T Co.

Although they allegedly paid between $300 and $400 each to the recruiters, the workers were told by Thai authorities that their visas were bogus. This larger group made similar claims.

Kheng Chan, a 30-year-old from Kampong Speu province, said he travelled to Thailand via the centre on August 18. When Chan crossed the border, he met 187 Cambodian workers who were stranded there without jobs – all from Koun Khmer. They were sent back on August 25, and made their way to the city.

“We came from different provinces to arrive in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Monitoring NGOs have claimed that unclear labour policies have translated into abuse and exploitation, but Koun Khmer said it is not in that business.

A representative of the company who declined to be named said it is negotiating with the workers and offering to pay for another round of travel, while guaranteeing employment this time. He claimed the original documents were legit.

“We cannot pay them back,” he said.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

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