The much-anticipated MoU with Malaysia on Cambodian maids could be finalised in the next few months, and a similar agreement with Thailand revived by the middle of the year, said the Minister for Women’s Affairs yesterday as she called for international pressure to see such agreements enacted.
“We have reviewed the draft agreement from Malaysia and invited delegates from Malaysia to come to Cambodia to finalise it,” Ing Kantha Phavi said on the sidelines of an event to launch the Khmer translation of the International Convention on Promotion and Protection of Rights of All Migrant Worker and Their Families, or CMW.
“The Home Affairs Ministry in Malaysia has received our invitation, so we are waiting for their response to see if they are coming,” she said.
Secretary of State for Women’s Affairs San Arun said they expected to meet with Malaysian officials to finalise the MoU in late April or early May.
A rash of abuses of Cambodian maids in Malaysia prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to impose a ban in October, which government officials had earlier said would not be lifted without the approval of an MoU ensuring better protections.
Officials said last week Malaysia had finally responded to Cambodia’s draft proposal.
Ing Kantha Phavi hailed the recent developments as a positive step, saying the past two years had been “difficult” in terms of working with Malaysia to protect Cambodian workers.
“It’s time to finish it [MoU],” she said.
An MoU on trafficked Cambodian workers in Thailand, signed in 2003, also looked set for review after the previous Thai administration and the Cambodian government disagreed over its implementation, Ing Kantha Phavi said.
The Thai minister of human security and social development had approached her during a meeting of Greater Mekong sub-region officials last month, and expressed the Thai government had “changed position” and would meet with her next month during the ASEAN summit, she said.
San Arun confirmed feasibility studies were being done on the MoU, and her Thai counterpart had agreed in a meeting on Monday to review it in May or June.
Ing Kantha Phavi also called for a “network strategy”, where international organisations and governments helped pressure governments to sign on to such MoUs and treaties when they were on the table.
For example, Filipino delegates had berated Malaysian representatives over their recalcitrance on the MoU during an inter-ministerial meeting in Siem Reap last month, she said.
“Please help us . . . we need a network strategy and a mediator to help solve common problems,” she said.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior would advocate for Cambodia to ratify the CMW, which it had signed in 2004, she said.
Ministery of Interior official Yim Virak said at the event that almost 120,000 Cambodian workers had been repatriated in 2011 due to abuse or trafficking complaints.