Labour firm T&P Co Ltd has been cleared of any wrongdoing at their Kampong Chhnang facility by police, amidst a wash of allegations from rights groups that the centre has been housing underage workers.
Prak Sao Ny, police chief of the Kampong Chhnang provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said yesterday that an inspection of the facility had revealed that all trainees were of legal working age and “lived happily, had enough food and were not being detained”.
“I went to the firm three times already in order to check with the workers whether they were underage or not, but all of them were [at least] 20 years old,” she said.
She also said the centre was a spacious, pleasant environment that also had room for recreation.
The investigation was spurred by allegations made by the Cambodian Legal Education Centre last month that T&P Co Ltd had forged documents concealing the ages of two trainees who were released from the centre on March 11.
Mouen Tola, head of the labour programme at CLEC, yesterday questioned the integrity of the investigation, reiterating claims he made last week that T&P Co Ltd had transported underage trainees to a nearby farm in order to trick inspectors.
“Our question is why, just after receiving the information [that] there would be an inspection, did the centre move the girls to the farm,” he said.
“To be frank I don’t trust the way that they did the inspection because ... there are a lot of reports that there are too many girls in the centre and that there are also young girls in the centre,” he said.
Prak Sao Ny confirmed that trainees had been transported to a nearby farm during the inspection but denied T&P Co Ltd took them there to conceal unlawful practices.
“They did not take the workers to hide them from the authorities as some people accused, [rather] the company director wanted to take them to visit his own farm to feed chickens, [catch] fish and cook to eat together there,” she said.
A total of 200 trainees were housed inside the centre, though 49 were not present during the inspection because they had been allowed to go home and visit their families., she added.
Sam Chankea, Kampong Chhnang provincial Coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, yesterday questioned the police assessment that the facility provided ample space for trainees.
“The centre is small and hundreds of people live in it, but the authorities said they live in good conditions and in a good situation. It is not true,” he said.
T&P Co Ltd moved trainees from a centre in Phnom Penh to the Kampong Chhnang facility last month amidst outcry over the death of woman allegedly detained against her will inside the premises.
The incident came just days after another woman broke both her legs and ankles trying to escape from a third story window in the same building.
T&P Co Ltd’s lawyer Kong Tylin said he was too busy to comment yesterday.