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Nearly 200 Chinese construction workers detained in Phnom Penh

Immigration police escort Chinese nationals to waiting vehicles yesterday morning at a construction site in central Phnom Penh.
Immigration police escort Chinese nationals to waiting vehicles yesterday morning at a construction site in central Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Nearly 200 Chinese construction workers detained in Phnom Penh

An inspection at the Sino Great Wall International Engineering’s building site in Phnom Penh yesterday found nearly 200 Chinese workers without work permits, according to an immigration official, though a spokesman for the project’s developer said the employees’ paperwork was in the pipeline.

Director of investigations for the Interior Ministry’s immigration police Uk Hai Seila said 190 workers from the huge Chinese construction firm had their passports taken for review by the Labour Ministry following the site check yesterday.

Seila said it appeared the group was working without the necessary permit, which, if the case, could see the workers and company fined.

However, speaking yesterday, a representative of Oxley Worldbridge, which has contracted Sino Great Wall to build The Peak and The Bridge, two massive mixed developments in Tonle Bassac commune, said the company had lodged applications for the workers’ permits, though the process was not complete.

“Their application is being processed,” said the representative, who declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak with the media.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour yesterday reiterated that all foreign workers in Cambodia must hold a valid work permit.

Meanwhile, naval authorities off of Koh Kong province last week seized 18 Chinese fishing vessels and detained their 36 Chinese crew members, an official said yesterday.

Mei Dina, a navy chief of staff familiar with the case, said a handful of the mid-size trawlers began appearing early this month, but when more appeared about a week later, patrolling ships took action and impounded them.

Dina speculated the boats may have tired of paying expensive docking fees in Thailand and moved into Cambodia, possibly under the protection of a powerful local. “We do not know who is behind this; it might be related to a ‘little man’ or a ‘big man’,” he said.

Bun Leut, Koh Kong provincial governor, confirmed the seizures and said he had “sent a report to the top leaders and is waiting for the decision”.

“Now we have brought them in for questioning. Those people on the boats were workers, and we don’t know what to do because we need to meet with the owner.”

Lieutenant General Tea Sokha, deputy commander of the navy, could not be reached, while Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said he had not received the report. Officials at the Chinese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

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