Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police seek Cham leader for maids sent to Saudi



Police seek Cham leader for maids sent to Saudi

Ahmed Yahya speaks to reporters outside of Phnom Penh Municipal Court in May 2016.
Ahmed Yahya speaks to reporters outside of Phnom Penh Municipal Court in May 2016. Hong Menea

Police seek Cham leader for maids sent to Saudi

Anti-human trafficking police are seeking the arrest of prominent Cham Muslim community leader and former Social Affairs Ministry official Ahmad Yahya for sending roughly 20 women to Saudi Arabia to work as maids more than a decade ago, after arresting his nephew last week.

In a statement posted to its website on Friday, the National Police accused Yahya and his nephew, Ismail Pin Osman, of forging documents to send then-16-year-old Sos Rotors to the gulf state to work as a maid.

Pol Pithey, the anti-human trafficking chief, and Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana could not be reached yesterday.

Yahya, when reached yesterday, denied that Pin Osman had ever worked for his recruitment agency and said the allegations are part of a smear campaign orchestrated by his political rival, Ministry of Labour Secretary of State Othsman Hassan.

“They create the problems, they spread the bad news and they make a bad reputation for me,” Yahya said.

He added that police have been watching his home since Friday afternoon but that he was in “a safe place”.

Yahya, who was fired from his job at the Ministry of Social Affairs last year after the allegations came to light, has repeatedly maintained that Rotors lied about her age. Last year, after she was rescued, Rotors herself had defended Yahya as a “good-hearted man” and said she had approached him for the job.

Last week’s arrest warrant for Pin Osman cites a complaint from Rotors’s mother. Rotors could not be reached for comment yesterday. Eng Pov, the second maid from Yahya’s company to be rescued from Saudi Arabia, said that she was “pretty sure” Pin Osman was among the two recruiters who came to her village in early 2004.

“I remember Ismail told us he was the nephew of Yahya and accompanied me to make a passport and go to the Poipet border and Bangkok,” she said. “If he wasn’t working for Yahya’s company, how could he do that?”

Pov, who was subjected to slave-like conditions by her employers in Saudi Arabia for a decade, said she has filed a separate complaint against Yahya for financial compensation.

Yahya was insistent, however, that Pin Osman was too busy at his job making licence plates at the Ministry of Public Works to help him with the recruiting agency. He also said he had personally accompanied the maids to the Thai border himself, before they flew to Saudi Arabia.

“If they came to stay at my house before they went to Thailand, they may have met Ismail there, I agree 100 percent,” Yahya said. “But [he] went to the village? No.”

“This story is not true,” he added. “I swear to Allah. I swear to God.”

Labour rights advocates have expressed concern about the government’s plans to send more maids to Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Middle East in light of Rotors’s and Pov’s experiences, as well as widespread reports of abuse and mistreatment in the countries.

Anti-trafficking NGO Chab Dai spokesman Joseph Arnold said it is important for accused traffickers to be investigated and, if convicted, made to pay compensation to victims.

“It builds faith for Cambodians that the system works,” Arnold said.

When reached yesterday, Hassan said Yahya was being investigated not only for sending underage girls, but also for sending them without a licence from the Ministry of Labour.

However, Yahya has long maintained that he had permission from the government, even producing a copy of a 2005 prakas titled “permission to allow (Accept Group) to select, train, send and manage Cambodian labourers to work in Saudi Arabia” signed by then-Minister of Labour Nheb Bun Chhin as proof.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen says Kingdom not a 'satellite country'

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia had sent diplomatic notes to various embassies demonstrating its stance and clarifying allegations that the Kingdom is a satellite country of China which will allow it exclusive access to the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province. The response

  • Vast Prince Manor fun park opens to much fanfare in Kandal

    Chinese-owned Prince Culture and Development Co Ltd officially launched the $85 million Prince Manor entertainment centre in Kandal province on Wednesday. Prince Manor is located along National Road 1, 20km from the centre of Phnom Penh. It is the first major theme park project in Cambodia and

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial