Some 285 million workers will migrate for employment when ASEAN countries open their borders to each other in 2015, Prime Minister Hun Sen predicted yesterday, as he urged speedier regional legislative action to ensure they could travel safely.
At an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council meeting, the premier warned that some countries’ legislative barriers could prevent ASEAN from producing the necessary legal frameworks by the 2015 deadline.
“The acceleration for an actual agreement for a management of protection and promotion rights of the migrant workers is needed to be signed before 2015,” said Hun Sen.
The premier did not specifically point the finger at any one country, though Cambodia itself is now in protracted negotiations with Malaysia to establish a Memorandum of Understanding to protect workers heading there for jobs.
Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, suggested that that deal was not far from fruition.
“We are working with Malaysia on legislative mechanism management before moving toward signing an MOU,” he said.
Hun Sen banned Cambodian recruitment firms from sending domestic workers to Malaysia last October following a raft of abuses there including deaths, alleged rapes and beatings.
The only country with whom Cambodia has signed an MOU to curtail such exploitation is Thailand, where approximately 36,500 workers had migrated since 2006, Mean said.
He added that 11,290 Cambodians had legally migrated to Malaysia since 2000 to work as maids and that non-ASEAN destination countries included South Korea and Japan.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre, said he estimated that some 300,000 of Cambodia’s 14 million citizens were now working abroad.
“They should have the right to join the trade union, and they should have the right to collective bargaining,” he said.
ASEAN countries that did not have such protections need to adopt the legal standards stipulated in International Labour Organization conventions on freedom of association, collective bargaining and the prevention of child labour, he added.
On a separate topic, Hun Sen also said yesterday that the Asian Development Bank had provided ASEAN with $500 million for regional infrastructure to improve connectivity, with additional support for the project from China, Japan and South Korea.