Responding to parliament’s order to investigate allegations against a recruitment agency with a record of mistreating its workers, the Ministry of Labour dispatched a team today to meet with a group of defrauded labourers.
Thirty-six would-be migrants in Kampong Thom claim licensed agency AP TSE & C charged them $300 each under the auspices of providing legal work in Thailand within two months, a worker representative said.
The offer and money were exchanged in July, but workers say, job prospects never emerged.
“The company does not comply with its promise, so we lose confidence and demand a refund,” said Taing Roeuy one of the 36 labourers.
Opposition lawmaker Men Sothavrin got wind of the complaints at a meeting last month, and wrote a letter detailing the grievances to the National Assembly, dated February 9.
“We received the letter from the National Assembly and are facilitating an investigation,” said Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour. “If the company has really neglected our workers and failed to send them to Thailand, then we must request they compensate fully.”
The ministry’s jump to action on the Kampong Thom complaint reflects a dramatic turnaround from typical disregard workers and rights groups report encountering when bringing recruitment woes to the government.
“The recruiters tend to have powerful owners with strong connections to government officials,” said Chan Naron of anti-trafficking group Chab Dai. “Even when we have gone with clients to the Anti-Human Trafficking Police, when the officers hear some companies’ names they say, ‘Oh, this will be very difficult to solve.’”
But the 36 workers aren’t the first to complain about AP TSE & C, which some say has family connections to high-ranking government officials.
In 2011, a maid sent to Malaysia by the agency was allegedly murdered by her employer, though the firm dismissed witness accounts and said she had pneumonia. Last August, a training centre subsidiary shipped more than 200 workers to Thailand and left them stranded without an employer, the labourers said.
But agency owner Seng Setthychey said the latest complaints in Kampong Thom are unfounded, as workers refused employment in a Thai factory.
Labour Ministry spokesman Sour yesterday declined to comment on whether the recruiter’s licence could be suspended if the latest allegations prove genuine.