Young women practice traditional Khmer dance in preparation for contract work in Japan. Some have pulled out of the deal, others plan to go.
A GROUP of Cambodian dancers who have been contracted to work in Japan have started
to pull out of the deal amidst fears they would be forced into prostitution.
More than 100 young woman applied to the Cambodian Nippon Manpower Association for
positions as dancers in Japan - 27 were accepted.
However since starting training for their new jobs some of the women have become
suspicious and now want out of their contract.
One of the dancers said she started to have doubts about the organization when the
association representative who took them to the Immigration Police Department told
her to lie to authorities regarding her passport application.
"I was advised not to tell police that I was going to work in Japan.
"I was to tell them that I was making a passport for when I occasionally visited
my relatives in Thailand or in the United States," she said.
The mother and aunt of two of the applicants said that she was initially pleased
the women had been accepted for the job but she changed her mind after her husband
looked into it.
"First I thought it was great for my daughter to work in Japan, but then I suspected
she would be working as a prostitute there," she said.
She said that her husband found out that women from other Asian countries had taken
up similar offers and found themselves sold to brothels.
She said that they decided not to go to Japan despite having signed a contract and
the company having already supplied them with the passport.
The $140 for the cost of the passport was advanced by the company and was to be deducted
from the dancers' salary in accordance with their contract.
Also set out in the contract was the salary level - $300 a month with a promised
increase to $350 after six months for a six day week.
A month's salary would be paid in advance three days before departure from Cambodia,
while the rest of the salary would be paid at the end of six months.
Japanese sources said that this was well below the legal minimum wage of $1000 a
month in Japan. However, an association spokesman said that the dancers were working
for a Cambodian company and their salary would be paid back here so they were not
covered by Japanese labor laws.
He said they would have accommodation provided and $5 a day for food. When asked
about how much $5 would buy in Japan where costs are substantially higher than in
Cambodia the representative suggested that the dancers could pool their money and
buy food to cook for themselves.
In addition to deductions for the passport costs the contract also stipulated that
payments made on the dancers behalf for airport taxes, accident insurance and visa
extensions would also be cut from the salaries.
The contract also said that if a dancer was pregnant when she arrived in Japan she
would be fined $1000, and if she became pregnant while in Japan she would be fired
and no salary paid.
Some of the dancers were also concerned about clauses in the contract relating to
their obligations to male customers in the places where they were to dance.
"The artists have to have a good attitude and welcome the guests. For example
when any guest has seen your good performance and he is interested in you and the
guest suggests you to sit with him you have to sit with him," the contract says.
However the contract does finish with the statement: "artists must not be sexual
workers or drug users."
The Japanese chairman of the association Masaru Serizawa denied that it was a front
for prostitution saying that would be illegal in Japan.
He said the company was regulated by the laws of the Japanese Government as well
However, while the association has got a license from the Ministry of Commerce, the
Ministry of Social Affairs says the association cannot run their business unless
they have their go ahead - which they do not.
"The Ministry of Social Affairs only has the rights to issue the permission
for this kind of business - the others cannot," said Khim Son, director of the
Department of Employment and Manpower.
Serizawa said this permission was currently being applied for.
He said the business was set up following market research by the All Japanese Artist
Association in Tokyo, which concluded that Japanese people were very interested in
Cambodian traditional dancing.
"Japanese people dislike European dancing. They dance fast. Cambodian dancing
is slow and hard," he said adding that people also liked the precision of the
Cambodian traditional dances.
He said that the All Japanese Artist Association asked him to send over a troupe
of Cambodian dancers to perform, however he could not afford to contract graduates
from the Fine Arts department of the University so instead they decided to train
up their own.
Meanwhile some of the women are going to take up the offer despite the others' misgivings.
"Sometimes I cannot believe that I will be sent to Japan," said Seang Hun,
She said she had quit school because of poverty and was now happy with her new job
and was enjoying the Japanese language and dance lessons.
And Tep Botum Botey, 18, said she was not worried about her safety or the possibility
she might be sold to a brothel saying she had complete faith in the $200,000 accident
insurance policy that the company signed them up for.
"I believe they will not do wrong to us because we have the contract,"
"I believe we will be taken care of very well.
"If they harm us they will pay my family $ 200,000."