Mao Pheak (R) talks about his experiences as a trafficked fisherman on a Fijian vessel during a press conference yesterday in Phnom Penh. He was repatriated to Cambodia earlier this month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
T & P, the notorious labour recruitment firm that was closed down last year because of its appalling record of abuse scandals, is continuing to receive and pocket remittances from maids stranded in Malaysia, a coalition of rights groups told a press conference yesterday.
At the conference, hosted by Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility, executive director Ya Navuth said the number of complaints filed against T & P and Giant Ocean International, which mysteriously shut down in February, had skyrocketed this year.
“We wonder why those companies sent workers to Singapore, China, Fiji, Mauritius and South Africa like this, because the government only allowed [them to send] to Thailand, Korea and Malaysia,” he said.
Navuth said the families of migrant workers had filed 56 complaints against T & P and 46 against Giant Ocean International in the first six months of this year, a seven-fold increase compared with the same period in 2011.
He also called on the Ministry of Labour to distribute the US$100,000 deposit the firms were required to pay for their licences to recruit workers.
Pung Chhiv Kek, chairwoman of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that though T & P was shut down in October, the firm continued to deposit remittances intended for workers’ families into a bank account.
“Some of the workers in Malaysia told us they continued to send money,” she said, adding the families never saw a cent.
Kek said nothing was known about where T & P’s bank account was and urged authorities to help stop the defunct firm from continuing to profit from exploitation.
Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said the Ministry of Labour was responsible for seeing that victims were compensated.
Ho Vuthy, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Labour’s department of labour, declined to comment and secretary of state Oum Mean could not be reached.
Two men who were trafficked onto fishing boats after registering with Giant Ocean International agonisingly detailed the all-too-familiar stories of their ordeals at sea.
Bursting into tears and unable to sit still, 32-year-old Mao Pheak explained how he had ended up on a fishing boat in Fiji for more than a year after being promised a job in Japan.
“I was beaten sometimes. I could not eat food for one or two days. And lastly, I could not get my salary,” he said.