Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng (centre) poses for a photograph with Hong Kong’s Labour and Welfare Secretary Stephen Sui (centre left) yesterday after agreeing to start a pilot project to send Cambodian workers to Hong Kong. FRESH NEWS

Hong Kong seeks Cambodian workers

Cambodia and Hong Kong yesterday agreed to start a five-year pilot program to send domestic workers to Hong Kong “very soon”, though experts urged caution, noting that migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong have faced a “slew of abuses”.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Hong Kong between a delegation led by Cambodian Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng and Hong Kong Secretary of Labour and Welfare Stephen Sui, said Heng Sour, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Labour.

The move comes only months after Hong Kong’s immigration department announced that, effective March 1, the visa requirements for Cambodian nationals would be relaxed and Cambodians would be able to apply for employment, investment, training and study schemes.

“The first employment sector that Hong Kong will provide to Cambodian nationals is domestic helper,” Sour said, adding that both countries “acknowledged the mutual benefit of hosting and sending the domestic helpers”.

Hong Kong doesn’t have a quota system for foreign domestic workers, leaving the matter up to the employers, but both sides agreed to start with a five-year pilot project that’s expected to send workers to Hong Kong “very soon”, Sour said.

Hong Kong’s Labour and Welfare Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said the Cambodian government needed to learn from a similar 2013 pilot scheme to send domestic helpers to Singapore, which was criticised for being opaque, and for sending workers abroad with inadequate training.

“At the end of the day, it resulted in many violations due to the language barriers and cultural differences,” he said. “We need to look back at the experience with Singapore.”

Singapore’s pilot program had attempted to avoid a repeat of widespread severe abuses against Cambodian maids in Malaysia, which led to a 2011 ban on sending maids there.

Even so, in 2015, Singapore-based worker welfare group Transient Workers Count Too wrote the program off as a “failure” due to concerns over poor working conditions and, in some cases, abuse.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said “migrant domestic workers have faced a slew of abuses in Hong Kong, including violence and sexual abuse”, as well as difficulties getting paid.

“The Cambodian government needs to demonstrate that it has the political will and organisation capacity to protect [its] migrant workers when they go overseas,” he wrote in an email. “This will require commitment to protect rights that Cambodia has so far totally lacked in its sending of workers overseas.”

MOST VIEWED

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that

  • Kingdom drafting new law to strengthen immigration

    The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration. Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.

  • Sokha defence denies Tech’s claims

    ON DAY two of Kem Sokha’s treason trial, lawyers for the government said the defence had raised questions in an attempt to allow their client to make a public statement and a conclusion to the case, something his legal team denied. Ky Tech, a

  • Cambodian general visits Myanmar to enhance national defence cooperation

    Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander-in-chief Vong Pisen is now in Myanmar leading a delegation that aims to improve ties, particularly in national defence, with the fellow Asean member. The timing of Pisen’s four-day visit to the Southeast Asian neighbour is highly symbolic, with

  • Sokha’s treason trial begins

    The treason trial of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha began at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday with the presentation of a two-minute video clip. The footage, which was the basis of the charge against him, was dismissed by