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Ban on maids to Malaysia officially lifted, government directive shows

Migrant workers hide their faces at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2012 after being repatriated from Malaysia
Migrant workers hide their faces at Phnom Penh International Airport in 2012 after being repatriated from Malaysia Pha Lina

Ban on maids to Malaysia officially lifted, government directive shows

After months of uncertainty, a newly obtained document shows that Cambodia’s six-year-old ban on sending maids to Malaysia – enacted following numerous reports of abuse there – has been officially lifted.

According to the directive, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 29 and obtained yesterday, the “recruitment of . . . maids to work in Malaysia is open as of January 1, 2017”.

Cambodia first imposed the ban on sending domestic workers to the country in 2011, but in December 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia to lift this ban, though final approval was still needed.

Even so, no maids have been sent so far, and measures to protect workers from the severe abuses that necessitated the ban are still not in place, according to Tiev Tithiakomol, director of the Labour Ministry’s Career and Occupation Department. “We are assessing how to control and manage workers to ensure they are safe.”

Norjufri Nizar Edrus, a counsellor at the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia who provided a copy of the directive, said that although sending maids was technically legal now, it would take time until the plan was fully implemented.

“We need to see how we can send maids safely,” he said, adding that a Cambodian-Malaysian meeting was envisaged for “perhaps next month”.

San Samol, an administrative chief of the recruitment agency International Investment Service, said that he had received the directive, but had not started sending maids due to a lack of procedural clarity. “As soon as the ministry is ready, we are able to send them,” he said.

He said that when his company sent maids prior to the 2011 ban, it had only seen minor problems – such as language barriers – not severe abuses.

But Kok Socheat, CEO of recruitment agency Fastup, said that he had never sent any workers to Malaysia and that he would not do so anytime soon, “because I heard from others that there’s always trouble there”.

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