Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Agencies to send maids to Hong Kong

Agencies to send maids to Hong Kong

A maid sets a dining table at a training centre yesterday in Phnom Penh, in anticipation of being sent to work in Hong Kong.
A maid sets a dining table at a training centre yesterday in Phnom Penh, in anticipation of being sent to work in Hong Kong. Photo supplied

Agencies to send maids to Hong Kong

The Cambodian government has selected six agencies to facilitate sending domestic workers to Hong Kong – with one saying they will begin sending maids by the end of the year – though rights groups yesterday warned of potential exploitation and abuses.

Ngoy Rith, deputy chief of the Labour Ministry’s Department of Labour, said that the government will allow the agencies Top Manpower, Anny Rita Best Manpower, Elite Manpower Agency, Sok Leap Metrey, Ung Rithy Group, and Win Win Manpower Service to send domestic workers to Hong Kong following an agreement in April.

“Hong Kong has talked to me a few times ... They want maids from Cambodia to work with them, as Cambodian people are polite and our cultures and traditions are similar,” he said.

Several of the chosen agencies have come under fire in the past. Among other incidents, Top Manpower was accused in 2011 of failing to help a family find their daughter who had gone missing in Malaysia after being placed by the agency; Ung Rithy has been accused repeatedly of human trafficking; and Anny Rita Best Manpower allegedly provided fake passports for workers migrating to Thailand.

An Bunhak, director of Top Manpower, said that they had received permission to recruit the workers and would train them at a newly established centre. “Last week, the Labour Department from Hong Kong came to visit the training centre, and they like what we created,” he said. “We hope we’ll be able to send the first maids in November or December.”

Bunhak added that they hoped to send between 100 and 200 domestic workers at first.

But Leo Tang, an organiser at Hong Kong Federation of Asian Domestic Workers Unions, warned that migrant domestic workers face exploitation and abuses in Hong Kong. “The most serious form is physical abuse or human trafficking,” he said. “Of course not everyone will face physical abuse, but I guess 99% of these workers will face a problem about illegal ... agency fees.”

This included agencies asking workers to pay fees up to 25 times the legal amount, which stands at about $55.

Tang further pointed to problematic advertising. “Some agencies, they are now telling Hong Kong employers: ‘Why should you hire Cambodian workers? It’s because Cambodian workers are more willing to follow the instructions of the employer,’” he said. “This means that the agents are sending a message to the public that the Cambodian worker is easier to exploit.”

And despite good laws – including a minimum wage, rest days and other rules such as sickness allowance – he said implementation was rarely enforced. “The Hong Kong government still doesn’t show a very determined attitude to implement all law and to protect domestic migrant workers,” he said. “The reason they allow foreigners to be domestic workers is to ensure that domestic workers’ wages are low enough so the Hong Kong employers can afford [them].”

Tang called for cooperation between countries to curb competition and protect workers.

Khun Tharo, coordinator of Building and Wood Workers International, which represents construction workers in Hong Kong, echoed concerns about high recruitment agency fees and low standards. “The Cambodian Government and Ministry of Labour must prescribe requirements on the working conditions,” he said.

And Cynthia Tellez, director of Mission for Migrant Workers in Hong Kong, argued spreading information was essential for the migrants to prevent exploitation, as employers often knowingly and unknowingly violated contracts. “Unless migrants are aware of them, I think it will be a risky journey for them,” she said.

She added the Cambodian government should give out phone numbers migrants could call in Hong Kong for support.

A previous version of this article stated that Building and Wood Workers International represents domestic workers throughout the region. This was incorrect. The Post apologises for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the