Anti-human trafficking police are seeking to arrest the fugitive director of the T&P Co Ltd labour recruiting firm and close his firm after 20 underage recruits destined to be domestic servants in Malaysia were rescued from one of its training centres over the weekend.
Chiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, said T&P director Sam Piseth had fled before a series of police raids on T&P facilities in Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh. “I will request labour ministry officials to completely close this company because it abused the Labour Law. We will cooperate with court officials to arrest the company owner, who has escaped,” he said.
T&P, and other recruiting firms had been repeatedly warned to clean up their act, he added. “We have enough evidence to close [T&P]. We found 20 underage girls detained in the company, fake documents and the illegal detention [of trainees].”
He suspected another 18 trainees had been provided fake travel documents and would seek to arrest their brokers. Girls aged 13 to 17 were found, some hiding under a bed in a locked room, during the raids on T&P’s Kampong Chhnang facility, said Keth Yong, chief of the province’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department.
“We rescued those girls and women and arrested an employee of the company who locked the girls in the room to detain them,” he said.
The suspect, 34-year-old Long Sina, would be sent to the court in coming days, Keth Yong said.
Kim Ly, the sister of 15-year-old Kim Chheng who was rescued during the raids, said T&P staff had secured forged documents changing her sibling’s age to 21 when she registered with the firm.
“My sister trained in the T&P recruitment company for two months and she already had been given a visa, but I don’t know when she was to fly to work in Malaysia,” she said.
Her sister still wanted to work in Malaysia in order to support her family, even though her mother opposed the idea, Kim Ly said.
T&P, which has been rocked by abuse scandals since a woman died in its Phnom Penh training centre in March, appears to have few friends left within the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies. ACRA president An Bunhak yesterday called for company staff to face prosecution.
An Bunhak said he had joined a raid on T&P’s Phnom Penh training centre on Saturday morning, after information surfaced that two underage girls from Kratie province were destined for one of the recruting company’s facilities.
“If T&P recruit underage [trainees] they go against Cambodian law.
“If you do [something] illegal or go against the law we won’t protect you,” he said.
The raid and arrest follows a similar rescue operation conducted at labour firm Century Manpower’s training facility in Phnom Penh last week, in which five underage workers were rescued.
Chea Chouk, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal Military Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department, confirmed yesterday that two company staff had been charged with illegal detention, though the owner remained at large.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, a vocal critic of Cambodia’s labour recruitment industry, welcomed the arrests, but said police and labour officials did not have the resources or the will to regulate what had become and industry of “slavery”.
“I’m not just saying suspend the companies, I’m saying suspend the whole industry of sending women to Malaysia until there is a demonstration of strong political will [to stop abuse],” she said.
No labour recruitment firm has ever been closed by the government in Cambodia, despite frequent reports of abuse and criminal behaviour from civil society groups, the media and victims of the firms.
Only the Ministry of Labour or the courts have the power to shut down labour firms.
Hou Vuthy, a deputy director at the Ministry of Labour, said if what he had heard was confirmed by reports he was due to receive on Monday, T&P would be shut.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA