Malaysia is primed to accept an influx of Cambodian workers after Prime Minister Hun Sen entreated his Malay counterpart to receive more Cambodians during an official visit to Malaysia late last week.
On Facebook on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote: “I suggested to Prime Minister [Najib Razak] that he be open to receiving more Cambodian workers to provide work for them, with a good salary and with good working conditions.”
“Meanwhile,” he wrote, “both countries are determined to prevent human trafficking across the country and international terrorism, which destroys peace in the region and in the world.”
Malay media reported Prime Minister Najib Razak embraced the Cambodian premier’s request, particularly as it pertained to domestic maids.
The news comes after the premier’s own 2011 ban on maids migrating to Malaysia was lifted late last year, and a fresh Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked between the two nations in December – the details of which have yet to be finalised, according to Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour.
Sour said the MoU would give any future maids legal recourse against the raft of abuses maids suffered in Malaysia in the past, adding that 30,000 Cambodians were currently working in Malaysia.
“If they work there via legal means, it is easy for us to help them. We worry that if they work there illegally, it is difficult to help them when they have problems,” he said.
The Malaysian Embassy last week did not respond to the Post’s requests for a final copy of the signed MoU.
Moeun Tola, executive director at labour rights group Central, said he was “ashamed” of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments.
“Being prime minister, he should think about creating jobs or creating opportunities within the country for his own people, not asking the foreign government to recruit labour from our country,” Tola said.
He said legal protections and monitoring mechanisms were not yet in place to protect low-skilled workers from exploitation. “So far, the Malaysian government does not have any intention to provide legal protection to the maids,” he said.
“I don’t think the Cambodian government should consider sending more people to Malaysia while all those issues are not being solved – the abuse, the exploitation, physical violence, and debt bondage,” he said.