Allegations of horrific abuse against Cambodian domestic workers in Malaysia, including the rape of a woman trying to flee an abusive employer that led to a pregnancy, emerged at a press conference yesterday attended by opposition MP Mu Sochua.
Mu Sochua said yesterday she had met with seven domestic workers who had escaped beatings, rape and slave labour conditions at a press conference in Malaysia hosted by rights group Tenaganita. She said she was going to take the allegations “all the way” to the United Nations and other relevant bodies.
“It’s really incredible and most of them talk about depression. Out here I have seven [women] and two want to commit suicide because they are so depressed - I have one who is next to me on the floor in tears,” she said.
A 27-year-old former domestic worker named Mong Sreymao had not seen her son, who was three months old when she left Cambodia, for five years, in which time both her parents had died, Mu Sochua said.
Another woman, who was staying in a Malaysian maternity shelter, had given birth one month ago after she was allegedly raped while trying to escape from her employer.
Other rescued domestic workers told Mu Sochua they’d been gang raped and abused, and had the scars to prove it.
The Sam Rainsy Party MP yesterday called for an immediate freeze on the sending of all Cambodian domestic workers to Malaysia.
An Bunhak, the director of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, said yesterday he was shocked by the allegations and would investigate immediately.
“Tomorrow I will call the embassy and we will check what’s going on and which agency sent these maids,” he said.
The problems of abuse were only going to get worse with a growing number of Cambodian domestic workers set to head to Malaysia, he said. He said he had lobbied governement and the private sector to close all the Kingdom’s training centres so that a sub-decree close to being passed by the government could be implemented. The sub-decree sets out new guidelines for the sector. “In a few years, the number of maids to send to Malaysia will double or triple and I tell you Cambodia is not ready. The training centres are poor.”
Mu Sochua said yesterday that three of the seven victims she had met were recruited by Cambodian labour recruitment agency Philimore, which had been repeatedly embroiled in abuse scandals.
Philimore director Sok Chanpheakdey questioned yesterday whether frequent claims of abuse against Cambodian domestic migrant workers made by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party were true.
“I think, are their claims true or not true. Until now I don’t know because the workers never give the information to the company for us to intervene into such violence. However, we will suffer so much if the case is true,” he said.
In a press statement released yesterday, Tenaganita said that a domestic worker void which had been filled by Cambodia after Indonesia froze its citizens from pursuing work in Malaysia had led to a routine experience of torture, control and denial of rights, evident in 41 cases the NGO had handled in the past six months.
“In all of these 41 cases, the passports of the domestic workers were held by their employers, they were not given a single day-off for rest, and none of them had a contract signed directly with the employer,” the statement read.