Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodian migrants faring ‘worst in region’



Cambodian migrants faring ‘worst in region’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian migrant workers wait at Poipet’s immigration office in July, after trucks full of workers were deported by Thai authorities back to the Kingdom. Maryann Bylander

Cambodian migrants faring ‘worst in region’

Out of four Southeast Asian countries, migrant workers from Cambodia have the worst experiences, with eight in 10 experiencing labour rights abuses while abroad and more than two-thirds reporting mental or physical health problems upon return, according to a study released by ILO and IOM today.

The study compared migrants from Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, finding workers from Cambodia are more likely to experience abuses and have health problems. An estimated 1.5 million Cambodians are currently working abroad, and Cambodian officials have publicly stated their intention to send even more.

Report author Ben Harkins said it is “difficult to say” whether migration helps or hurts the average Cambodian worker. Despite some long-term benefits – including slight increases in monthly income after returning – “there’s also a lot of problems”, he said.

Harkins said Cambodian migrants are particularly vulnerable to labour rights abuses and stayed the shortest length of time in their destination countries. In addition, Cambodian workers struggle to find employment upon return.

“There’s still a gap,” Harkins said. “Even if they do obtain these kinds of improvements in skills, they can’t always apply them when they come back to Cambodia.”

Two-thirds also reported social, psychological or health issues upon return – with the largest complaints being boredom, anxiety and depression. While those may seem like quibbles, the results show that migrants need help readjusting to their communities and finding work, Harkins said.

Srorn Langda, project manager for human trafficking NGO Chab Dai, said he was unsurprised by the results. The vast majority of Cambodian workers migrate through unofficial channels, often without a contract, which puts them at risk, he said.

But even those with contracts sometimes end up with employers who break their promises, Langda added. “They don’t give their salary to them, they use them, they exploit their labour,” Langda said.

Still, he hesitated to say 
that migration is overall a negative experience for Cambodian workers.

“When they are staying in the countryside, they have nothing to do, they are jobless,” he said. “Migrants can improve their living situation.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech to garment workers on Wednesday that he hopes 
to increase the number of migrants working overseas, despite years of reports of widespread abuses. Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.

Researchers spent one and 
a half years producing the report, which involved surveying more than 1,800 returned migrant workers, including nearly 500 from Cambodia.

Harkins pointed out that not all the results were negative. Almost half of Cambodian migrant workers brought back new skills from their time abroad and more than nine out of 10 female workers reported that their experience abroad was empowering, he said.

Upon return, migrant workers from Cambodia were also able to slightly increase their monthly income by $11, according to the report.

To improve experiences for migrant workers, ILO and IOM recommend that destination countries beef up their labour rights protections and that origin countries improve job opportunities for returned migrants.

Harkins also called upon Cambodian authorities to be stricter in pursuing labour rights violations, particularly those committed by recruitment agencies.

“The benefits of migration have not been maximised for Cambodian migrants, but we also acknowledge that there is the possibility for migrants to have positive outcomes,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration