Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Distrust of authorities travels abroad: study

Distrust of authorities travels abroad: study

Migrant workers wait at Poipet’s international border checkpoint in 2014 before crossing into Thailand
Migrant workers wait at Poipet’s international border checkpoint in 2014 before crossing into Thailand Hong Menea

Distrust of authorities travels abroad: study

Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand facing exploitative conditions showed very low awareness of their labour rights and options for legal recourse there, with many chalking this up to a lack of confidence in authorities first ingrained in the Kingdom, a new report states.

The report, released by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women on Friday, surveyed workers still in Thailand as well as returnees, finding they had a basic misunderstanding of immigration and labour laws and rarely sought government intervention or legal avenues when exploited.

While the scarcity of successful cases in which workers got compensation from errant employers was one of the factors, many also said they assumed previous experiences with corrupt officials and an ineffective court system in Cambodia would be repeated across the border.

The report includes all-too-familiar testimonials from workers highlighting the abuse they endured.

“I didn’t get paid at all and was threatened and physically assaulted. Someone asked when we would get paid and was slapped in the face with a gun,” said a respondent named Nam, who worked separating garbage.

Despite these experiences, most workers did not approach the police or provincial labour offices in Thailand. Instead, many blamed themselves for these hardships, citing the Buddhist precept of karma.

“I think I have done away with my old karma. I may have repaid all my karma debt now that I have been able to find good employer,” said Laem, after being shunted from employer to employer “like a football” without pay.

Daniel Murphy, a consultant at Human Rights Watch and International Labor Rights Forum, said he had witnessed workers blaming themselves or their karma for encountering abuse in Thailand.

“I think this is tragic and, in a sense, indicative of just how systematic and normalised these types of abuses have become over the last few decades in Thailand,” said Murphy, who focuses on migrants in the fishing sector.

Moeun Tola, of labour rights group Central, said the Cambodian government could not wash its hands of what he estimated were more than 1 million migrants working in Thailand, saying it needed to train them beforehand, as well as make assistance more accessible across the border.

Calls to Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour and the consular services arm of Cambodia’s embassy in Bangkok were not answered yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol