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Workers’ safety an issue in Qatar plan

A rights organisation and opposition-party leaders are questioning whether a draft law to send workers to Qatar will provide overseas Cambodians with adequate protection and preparation.

Under the draft law, approved by the National Assembly on Friday after being signed by Qatar’s and Cambodia’s governments in May, the Ministry of Labour will train workers and regulate the process of sending them overseas, Labour Minister Vong Sauth said on Friday.

Joel Preston, a consultant for the Cambodian Legal Education Centre (CLEC), said he had not seen the agreement but questioned the efficacy of its measures, given the government’s track record of sending workers to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

“Our concern is that they just send people there. They don’t have a monitoring program,” Preston said, adding that Cambodian embassies do not have the necessary staff to respond effectively to worker complaints.

An SRP member who asked not to be named noted that the cases of Cambodian maids being abused and worse in Malaysia were reported by media but got little attention from the Cambodian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

“Cambodian law is good, but often falls short in implementation,” he said.

An Bunhak, president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said that in the hope of supporting the draft law’s worker protections, ACRA would open an office in Qatar and advocate against sending domestic workers, whose mistreatment is more difficult to monitor than those who work in more public industries.

Labour Minister Sauth said that under the new law, training will give workers the skills necessary for jobs in Qatar, but according to Preston, apparent offers of training have provided no real assistance in the past.

In the case of workers sent to Malaysia, a three-month supposed training session was confining rather than training them, Preston said.

While Bunhak said he hoped the draft law would help workers who cannot find jobs in Cambodia, Preston had other ideas.

“I think the best solution is to improve work conditions within the country.”

Although the government has received 192 complaints from 347 Cambodians working abroad since 2007, Sauth dismissed the gravity of these complaints, because they represent only a minuscule percentage of the total 220,000 workers sent abroad in that time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Justine Drennan

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