The Association of South-East Asian Nations has put Cambodia in charge of combating regional migrant labour problems despite recurring abuse scandals that have led Prime Minister Hun Sen to ban sending domestic workers to Malaysia.
Interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that Cambodia had been assigned the roles of leading the fight against migrant worker problems and human trafficking in the region at the recent ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting for Transnational Crime in Bali on October 13.
“We will try our best to crack down on [migrant labour-related] crimes in the countries to reduce them, but it does not mean there will be no crime in those countries,” he said.
But the Cambodian government does not appear to be unified on the Malaysia ban with the Ministry of Labour on Monday telling recruitment firms they could continue to send trainees to Malaysia if they have existing contracts and travel documents, contradicting an outright ban worded in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s circular.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua yesterday claimed the Ministry of Labour was openly defying the order signed by the Prime Minister on Saturday.
“I think the Ministry of Labour and Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies is a joint venture. Does the PM have no more leverage or what?” she said adding that Cambodia should clean up it’s own house before taking on a position for which it had no capacity and no will to execute.
Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with the rights group Licadho, said Cambodian authorities were certainly familiar with the labour issues but questioned how the country could be given the role given their track record on acting on concerns.
“It can not get more Kafka-esque than that,” he said.
But An Bunhak, president of the ACRA, said Cambodia had shown it had the ability to take on the task.
“No one provides work to anyone who does not have the ability,” he said.
Hun Sen’s personal spokesman Eng Sophalleth and Labour Ministry secretary of state Oum Mean declined to explain the contradictions between the their office’s orders. More than 30 domestic migrant workers departed for Malaysia through Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday.