Bun Ly (centre), a 36-year-old trafficking victim who was forced to work on a Thai fishing vessel under slave-like conditions, with other trafficking victims at an Adhoc office yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Human rights group Adhoc released a report on the state of Cambodian migrant workers yesterday, saying that tales of abuse from migrant workers and their families have increased five-fold compared to the same period last year.
Seventy per cent of this year’s 141 complaints concerned domestic workers abroad, Adhoc says, and the government’s moratorium on sending maids to Malaysia may be partially to blame for the spike in incidents.
According to Adhoc president Thun Saray, when recruitment companies closed after the government ban, their former clients were essentially set adrift.
“We noticed [incidents] were increasing, because rights violations against male and female migrant workers in Malaysia have deteriorated even more since the government banned companies from sending workers last year,” he said. "The company is no longer responsible for the workers, so the loss of contact is increasing almost every day.”
Chea Sokha, 27, who was a maid in Malaysia for nearly two years, said she found the job through a recruiter.
She and another maid were overworked, underfed and were beaten or tortured if their work was deemed unsatisfactory.
“My employer took a [bathroom] scale and beat my head,” she said. “I am hurt. They look down on us Khmers as lazy and foolish.”
Chea Sokha was also arrested and detained for nearly seven months after her employer forced her to work in the market, a violation of her visa.
“What could I do?” she asked. “My employer doesn’t seem punished. Anyway right now, I’ve come back to my homeland. It is my new birth.”
Bun Ly, 36, a fisherman from Kampong Speu who was recently repatriated, said he was cheated by a broker in Thailand and sold from place to place before ending up on a Malaysian boat, where he was a virtual slave.
“I escaped from the boat,” he said. “I swam with my two friends, but they died. I was panicking, but I...was saved.”
Lim Mony, deputy head of Adhoc’s women’s section, emphasised the urgency of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between Cambodia and Malaysia that will protect migrant workers’ rights.
San Arun, a secretary of state with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that the two governments will discuss the MoU at the end of June or July.
“The [Cambodian] government, via related ministries and the Ministry of Labour, is preparing to defend our residents who suffer abroad,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sen David at [email protected]