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Cambodian maids to head to Malaysia in June

Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right) meets with Malaysian Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot to discuss an MoU on domestic workers in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (right) meets with Malaysian Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot to discuss an MoU on domestic workers in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Cambodian maids to head to Malaysia in June

Cambodia plans to send maids to Malaysia in June after a more than six-year ban, the minister of labour said yesterday, while a new online recruitment system has been launched in Malaysia.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting, Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng said that migrant workers would receive one to two months of training before departing. “On the 1st of June this year, the first group of migrant workers will depart to Malaysia,” he said.

Cambodia banned sending maids to Malaysia in 2011 following widespread reports of abuse.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to resend maids to Malaysia in 2015. A copy seen by The Post outlines vague protection mechanisms for domestic workers.

Sam Heng added that workers had guidelines for complaints in cases of abuse and that two Labour Ministry counsellors would assist migrants, together with the Cambodian Embassy.

Also speaking to the press, Malaysian Human Resources Minister Datuk Richard Riot lauded the “very, very fruitful meeting”, and said he would wish for maids to come a month earlier as Malaysia had good experience with Cambodians. “They have not created a single social problem in our country,” he said.

He also maintained there were sufficient mechanisms in place. “Everything is contained in the memorandum of understanding,” he said, adding that International Labour Organization standards applied.

With a recently established online system in Malaysia, employers could hire domestic workers directly from Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Vietnam and Laos – skipping the step of going through agencies.

Conditions are for the applicants to be female and aged 21 to 45, and to have passed security clearing and a medical examination. However, only a few conditions are imposed on employers, such as not having declared bankruptcy.

“Under the online system, which was introduced recently . . . anyone can apply for employment in Malaysia through the online system, but . . . of course we will make sure that . . . there is a mechanism for us to find out whether he or she is eligible to work in Malaysia,” Riot said. “For example . . . we have ways and means to find out whether the worker has been convicted of a crime.”

But the employment contract under the online system provides only vague protections for maids, obliging the employer to provide “reasonable and sufficient daily meals” as well as “reasonable accommodation”.

Maids can only legally terminate the contract if they can offer proof that they had “reasonable grounds to fear for his or her life or is threatened by violence or disease”, are “subjected to abuse or ill treatment by the employer” or had not received their salary as agreed. Employers can fire maids for a variety of reasons, including “disobeying lawful and reasonable order of the Employer” or “neglecting the household duties and habitually late for work”.

Still, Riot said additional protections for the online process were not necessary. “The moment they’re registered . . . it is the duty of our country to ensure that all the workers that we have in the country are protected under Malaysian law,” he said.

Sam Heng yesterday appeared not to be aware of the online recruitment mechanism, saying maids would still all be sent through agencies in both countries.

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