Prime Minister Hun Manet said his government is working to open up more job opportunities for Cambodians abroad, as he reveals plans to increase Cambodian workers in Japan by another 8,000 next year. He noted, however, that his government’s primary focus remains on enhancing domestic employment and attracting investments. 

These remarks were made during his meeting with the Cambodian community in Japan on December 16, on the sidelines of the ASEAN-Japan summit.

“The government’s actions align with global norms, offering choices. In Japan, we have nearly 30,000 Cambodian citizens, mainly students, interns and trainees,” he said.

“As discussions progress, we aim to increase [Cambodian] migrant workers in Japan by an additional 8,000 next year. It’s essential to clarify: Are we pushing Cambodians into servitude? No, we’re fostering opportunities,” Manet said.

“Our goal is about dignified employment, earning income, supporting families and building future skills,” he said.

At the event, he said that companies hosting Cambodian students in training appreciate their honesty and diligence, a source of pride for the Kingdom and its people.

“It’s not by chance that we’re sending an additional 8,000 interns for training next year. If our migrant workers or trainees caused trouble, Japan wouldn’t permit us to increase the number. But due to positive actions and hard work, Japan has welcomed more of our people. This is a significant gesture of gratitude,” he said.

Manet urged the public to place their trust in his government, assuring them that he would continue the legacy of former Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“In times of peace and development, our responsibility is to care for all. Our commitment is to benefit everyone, sharing wealth, particularly with those in need. It’s our duty to offer significant assistance,” he said.

The premier said that, economically, Cambodia needs to generate job opportunities across all sectors, both locally and internationally.

“When it comes to workers overseas, we have faced accusations of sending them to act as slaves. However, it’s important to note that there are no countries in the world without people working abroad, including Japan. Many Japanese people work in the US, and South Korean citizens come to work in Japan, just as Cambodians work in South Korea,” he said.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said on December 17 that Cambodia still lacks sufficient job opportunities for its people. Providing an opportunity for people to work in Japan contributes to the economic well-being of those who wish to become migrant workers.

However, he said the government should consider ensuring that when migrant workers return to Cambodia, they possess sufficient skills to contribute effectively to the development of the country.

“Cambodia currently lacks a policy or plan to harness the skills of returnees. Consequently, the country faces a shortage of skilled workers,” he said.

He also suggested that the government generate more jobs within the country, allowing people to earn decent incomes instead of increasing the number of workers sent abroad.