The Labour Ministry this week issued a licence to send Cambodian workers abroad to a company owned by Sam Pisey, who was previously wanted for arrest in a case involving underage workers – a decision criticised by the government’s own anti-human trafficking committee.
4 Tigers Labour Supply Co Ltd, owned by Pisey, was one of four agencies licensed to send workers to Saudi Arabia, according to a list issued by the Labour Ministry earlier this week that included a total of 93 firms authorised to send workers overseas.
Pisey previously served as the director of T&P Co Ltd until 2011, when the firm – then the country’s second-largest recruitment agency – was suspended after a woman died at one of its training centres, another woman broke her ankle trying to jump out of a window in an alleged escape attempt, and 26 underage girls were found at a provincial maid training facility.
Authorities suspended Pisey’s company and issued a warrant for his arrest, but he fled the country to evade capture. A year later, three family members of maids recruited by T&P lodged complaints after one of their relatives disappeared in Malaysia, and two others were allegedly beaten and stripped naked by their employers.
Chou Bun Eng, the deputy director of the government’s National Committee of Counter Trafficking and a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, called on the Labour Ministry to explain why Pisey was granted a licence to open new recruitment agencies.
“Since it was reported that the company used to have a problem, what is the reason that they approved this company for operation? I also want to know,” she said. “In my opinion, if that company used to have a problem already, they should not be allowed to operate again.”
Pisey could not be reached yesterday. His Facebook page shows pictures of him celebrating the opening of his new firm, 4 Tigers, and also lists him as the CEO of 168 Manpower Supply Co.
168 Manpower Supply was registered in 2015 and is currently licensed to send workers to Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore.
In 2014, 50 migrant workers accused the company of promising them employment in Thailand in exchange for $200, but then never providing the jobs.
Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour could not be reached on Thursday. An Bunhak, the president of the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies, declined to comment because he was unable to get in touch with Pisey.
“I want to know about the story before [I] can say something to you,” Bunhak said in a message.
According to the Labour Ministry’s new list, there are now nearly twice as many agencies licensed to send workers abroad than in 2014, when just 49 companies had permission.
Despite the ministry’s attempt to crack down on unlicensed recruitment agencies, labour rights advocates have said that fraud and exploitation continue to plague the sector.
Moeun Tola, director of labour rights group Central, said it was “quite sad” that Pisey was permitted to open new companies and send workers abroad.
“It’s quite a bad precedent and motivates companies to continue violating laws, regulations and human rights,” Tola said. “We should promote best practice businesses and punish, effectively, the bad or dirty businesses.”