Protracted negotiations for a memorandum of understanding between Cambodia and Malaysia to counter human trafficking hit another hurdle yesterday with the last-minute cancellation of two-day talks between the governments.
Confused attendees were greeted at the lobby of the Phnom Penh Hotel by a staff member who denied such a meeting would be held there.
San Arun, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs said a Malaysian embassy official had told her at 3pm the previous day they had to pull out of the meeting because two of four technical experts in their delegation could not make the trip.
“It seems like they were ready, but then at the last minute, this happened. I still believe we can work together in a positive manner,” she said, adding that the two governments would probably have to postpone the meeting until September.
Raja Saifful Ridzuwan, deputy chief of mission at the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh, said the postponement was due to a minor administrative matter in Malaysia.
“The postponement will not have any bearing on our commitment to get this MoU ready, and I hope we can sign the agreement soon,” he said.
In October, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a moratorium on sending maids to Malaysia amid a spate of abuse and exploitation scandals that included allegations of forced detention, under-age recruitment, withholding of pay and brutal treatment by employers.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre, said he was disappointed the MoU had again been delayed while Cambodian maids that had remained in Malaysia after the moratorium still faced severe abuses.
“The death cases are still happening . . . so we don’t understand why the Malaysian government doesn’t take any concrete action to combat violations and exploitation,” he said.
Tola called for the public release of the draft MoU so civil society could have input.
San Arun said the draft MoU remained a confidential document being negotiated by the two governments.
To contact the reporter on this story: David Boyle at [email protected]