Rights workers yesterday called for a labour recruitment firm to face suspension after five underage girls were reportedly discovered during a raid on one of its training centres in the capital on Tuesday.
Officials said the underage girls were among 26 women removed from a Century (Cambodia) Manpower Co Ltd training centre in Sen Sok district’s Teuk Thla commune, following a complaint to NGO Action Pour Les Enfants in August by the mother of a missing 14-year-old girl. Two company employees were arrested and officials are now seeking the whereabouts of the firm’s owner.
The legal working age for domestic workers in Cambodia is 18, but people seeking domestic work in Malaysia must be 21. The underage girls told police that a company broker had told them they could work as maids in Malaysia by lying about their age.
Rights workers have reacted positively to the moves taken against the recruitment firm and yesterday called for further action.
“We need to see further examination of this company,” Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said. “We need to see the manager and the owner of the Century [Manpower] agency prosecuted.”
He added that while the search was a “positive” step by authorities, the firm should be suspended and its other training centres inspected.
“The lack of regular inspection and effective inspection is why we … hear about underage recruitment, falsifying documents and illegal confinement,” Moeun Tola said. “The police just sit and wait and they are only reactive, not proactive.”
Am Sam Ath, senior monitor for rights group Licadho, also said that the firm should face suspension and that its owner should be questioned.
“I think the authorities have to monitor this training centre and also the head company which is connected with the case,” he said, adding that officials and NGOs should continue to cooperate to address migrant worker abuses.
Officials could not say yesterday whether the firm would be suspended.
National military police spokesman, Kheng Tito, said that the municipal prosecutor yet to issue an order to shut down the company.
“The two company employees are being questioned and we don’t know yet whether they will be sent to the court or released,” he said.
While Chea Chouk, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking military police, said that police were unsure whether a suspension would be ordered.
Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, declined to comment yesterday but referred questions to Hem Bunny, director of the Ministry’s employment and manpower department, who could not be reached.
An Bunhak, director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said that he was waiting on an official report from authorities regarding the case, but that the association would look into complaints about the training centre.
Labour recruitment firms in the Kingdom have come under increasing scrutiny over the course of the year following a raft of alleged abuses of Cambodian domestic workers, particularly in Malaysia, by their employers and the agencies that recruit them.