As fresh revelations of questionable associations between labour recruitment firms and the industry’s key regulatory bodies emerged yesterday, the owner of Cambodia’s biggest migrant domestic worker agency said he was finished with the industry.
Labour recruitment firms across the country have been ordered by the government to empty their training centres or find jobs for recruits outside of a domestic worker market in Malaysia that has become inundated with abuse scandals and temporarily placed off limits.
Rights groups have slammed the Ministry of Labour for attempting to provide a loophole to the suspension for already contracted recruits, suggesting entrenched conflicts of interest have rendered the institution fundamentally incapable of performing its regulatory role.
Yesterday, links emerged between the deputy chief of the National Police, the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agency’s official lawyer, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and two labour recruitment firms.
Lao Ly Hok, a board member of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, confirmed that Osman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, was the owner of the firm Human Resources Development.
But Osman Hassan said yesterday that he had already passed on ownership of that recruitment firm.
“I am not involved with Human Resource Development because I gave it my sibling already,” he said, without identifying who that was.
As police continued a crackdown launched earlier this month, an official at the Ministry of Interior, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that deputy chief of the National Police Sok Phal was the brother of Ung Seang Rithy, owner of one of Cambodia’s biggest recruitment firms – Ung Rithy Group – and ARCA’s treasurer.
The official also confirmed that Kong Tylin, ACRA’s official lawyer, is also the nephew of Ung Seang Rithy.
Sok Phal yesterday neither confirmed nor denied the associations, stating merely that the Post should ask Ung Seang Rithy, who could not be reached.
When Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, was asked whether he was concerned the associations precluded transparent regulation, he replied “don’t ask me, I don’t know anything” before hanging up on a reporter.
Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant at rights group Licadho, said the revelations “very much” explained why the Ministry of Labour had shown no will to regulate the sector.
“First of all, the government needs to ensure there is a proper regulatory body over this sector that will be able to crack down, and right now, it is impossible for the Ministry of Labour to do this. For so many years they have turned a blind eye,” he said.
The revelations follow a police crackdown on the SKMM Investment Group that unearthed under-age trainees and scores of women who said the company had forcibly detained them.
SKMM is owned by Nhem Sothea, the wife of Tan Kimseang, deputy chief of the International Police Department at the Ministry of Interior. Lao Ly Hok, said yesterday that the temporary ban – which ACRA announced it would fully implement on Thursday – had almost caused his company Philimore to go broke, a sign from god it was time to do something else.
“You know, sometimes I’m ashamed to show my face to my family, because we do many good things, but I don’t know why they always talk about the bad things. It affected my honour, so I think this is not a proper job for my future,” he said.
After seven years in the business, placing more than 10,000 recruits in positions in Malaysia, Lao Ly Hok said all he had to show for it was about $US100,000 of broken contracts that he will now have to repay to foreign partners.
He said company staff such as the cook, trainers, the accountant and processing staff knew his firm was bankrupt and hadn’t even bothered asking him to compensate them for their lost jobs and questioned why the media never reported about the good things the industry did.
Philimore have had their fair share of negative press including allegations their recruits have been subjected to physical abuse or have simply disappeared in Malaysia, but Lao Ly Hok said in 90 per cent of cases, his company had successfully helped recruits earn a good wage.
On Monday, Chea Chouk, the owner of the recruitment firm Agency Service Centre in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, was sent to court on charges of illegal detention after a police raid on the company’s training centre.