THE rights group Adhoc announced yesterday that it had received 28 complaints from women who claim to have been abused while working as domestic servants in Malaysia, a figure that it said marked a sharp increase over previous years.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Lim Mony, deputy director of Adhoc’s Women’s and Children’s Rights Programme, said the reports were indicative of a “lack of attention from the government and the Labour Ministry”, and that the recruitment firms that sent them abroad were also at fault.
“We see that the recruitment firms have never cared or followed up on the situation of the workers after they left to work in Malaysia,” she said.
Chan Krisna Sawada, the head of the Women’s and Children’s Rights Programme, said most complaints had been filed against the recruitment agencies after the women had returned from Malaysia.
She speculated this was likely because of concerns among the women that it would be difficult to pursue complaints against foreign employers.
“There is only one case that was filed against a Malaysian employer among the 28 cases that we got,” she said.
She added that the number of such complaints had risen dramatically this past year, but could not provide comparison figures from previous years.
Heng Bunnaren, a 27-year-old former domestic servant who appeared at the press conference, said she was sent to Malaysia in March after completing a training programme at Philimore, a local recruitment firm. She lasted for just three months of her two-year contract.
“They asked me to work like an animal, and sometimes I did not have food to eat and did not sleep,” she said.
When she called the Malaysian branch of Philimore to make a report about beatings, she said, an employee there offered little sympathy, saying only that the employer “would not beat me to death”.
The announcement from Adhoc comes amid mounting pressure on domestic recruitment firms, some of which have been investigated for allegedly keeping their charges in squalid conditions and detaining them illegally.
On Sunday, officials said that Sen Ly, director of the firm VC Manpower, had been arrested on suspicion of violating the Kingdom’s anti-human trafficking law.
Chan Krisna Sawada said Adhoc had also received 23 complaints from women who said they had been mistreated during the training process.
The Labour Ministry is drafting a sub-decree that would spell out stricter guidelines for recruitment firms.
However, Hou Vudthy, deputy director of the ministry’s Employment and Manpower Department, said yesterday that a draft of the sub-decree had not yet been finalised.