Cambodian recruitment agencies are drawing up more extensive training programs for maids being sent to Malaysia following a lifting of a ban on the practice in December.
However, it remains unclear by what standards the programs created by the agencies – many of which have been accused of abuses in the past – will be evaluated.
Cambodian firms were ban-ned in 2011 from sending domestic workers to Malaysia following numerous reports of abuse. The ban was lifted in a memorandum of understanding [MoU] signed with Malaysia last month.
Labour Minister Ith Samheng said in a speech last week that the roughly 30 recruitment companies interested in sending maids to Malaysia would be required to beef up their training programs in preparation for mid-2016, when the MoU will be implemented.
An Bun Hak, director of firm Top Manpower, confirmed the move, saying his firm’s training period had been increased from under three months to “four to six” months.
“We will train them about the [Malaysian] language, culture and housework skills,” he said.
Each company will be able to draw up its own program, which will then be sent for approval by the ministry prior to implementation.
However, since the MoU has not been released in full, it remains unknown by what – if any – criteria such programs will be evaluated. Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached yesterday.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, noted that maid training itself has been rife with allegations of mistreatment and urged the new trainings have clear guidelines.
“Providing maids with skills training before they depart is helpful, but the costs of the training programs should be paid by the agencies and not the women themselves, and should explicitly ensure these women have freedom of movement and the manpower agencies don’t lock them in away in their centers during ‘training’ – as has been done in the past,” he wrote in an email.
In 2010, the Post reported allegations that recruitment firm VC Manpower was locking its trainees inside their facility at night after one woman injured her back while trying to escape.
Top Manpower’s Bun Hak said his firm’s training would be paid for by deducting from workers’ future earnings, adding that there were no specific lessons on what to do in case of abuse, an issue he said would be addressed by the time of the MoU’s implementation.
Moeun Tola, executive director of labour rights NGO Central said that while additional training might help, consistently monitoring the condition of each worker on the ground was key to staunching employer abuse.
“The two governments need to talk seriously about how to monitor whether the MoU is being respected.”