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Rape, beating claimed

Rape, beating claimed

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Srey Sophal, the mother of a migrant worker allegedly being held in Malaysia, speaks to reporters yesterday during a press conference at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.

I appeal ... please help to liberate my daughter

A widow who claims her daughter was raped, beaten and deprived of food over a seven-month period by two separate employers in Malaysia yesterday appealed to the Cambodian government to intervene.

Srey Sophal, 66, from Svay Rieng province, requested that government officials tell Phnom Penh-based recruitment agency Champa Manpower Group to allow her daughter to return to Cambodia.

Speaking at a press conference held by opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, Srey Sophal said her daughter had been sent by the company to work at a house in Malaysia where she was raped twice on March 29 and 30 by her employer’s father.

“They threatened that if my daughter told someone about this, they would beat my daughter until she dies,” she said.

“I would like to appeal to the government and parliamentarians to please help to liberate my daughter. Champa Manpower Company said that if I want to have my daughter back, I must have US$1,500-$2,000 to redeem to the house owner.”

Srey Sophal said her daughter first travelled to Malaysia last September to work at a house where she claimed she was beaten and deprived of food before being sent to a second employer, where the alleged rape took place.

“My daughter called me to say that they mistreated her,” said Srey Sophal, adding that her daughter had contacted the Malaysian police.

“They beat my daughter. They locked my daughter in a room, depriving her of rice.”

Champa Manpower Group was temporarily banned from recruiting new workers by the Ministry of Labour in July last year following a raid on three villas owned by the firm in the capital’s Chroy Changvar commune, in which 232 women were discovered living in squalid conditions.

Sa Ith Nory, a representative from Champa Manpower Group, said yesterday that the woman could not return home until her two-year contract was completed.

“We must talk with my boss,” said Sa Ith Nory.

He added that the owner of Champa Manpower had flown to Malaysia to investigate the accusations.

“I am not sure that [the rape] is true or not,” he said.

“Sometimes it is created, sometimes it is real.” Mu Sochua said yesterday that she had contacted the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia and would send letters to the Foreign Affairs and Labour ministries.

“We would like the government to withdraw the licence of the company immediately or at least suspend it,” said Mu Sochua.

The lawmaker said she was concerned at the lack of government action on the abuse of migrant workers.

“There is an investigation but it takes too long,” said Mu Sochua. “But I remain optimistic because the Malaysian embassy has taken action in the past for other cases.”

Huy Pichsovann, programme officer at the Community Legal Education Centre, said that government action against abusive practices of labour recruitment firms had been inadequate.

He said that government investigations rarely lead to appropriate punishment.

“They don’t care about the social issues – about rape, about violence, about human rights. They care about economics only,” he said.

Raja Saiful Ridzuwan, deputy head of mission at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh, yesterday declined to comment on the allegations. Representatives from the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia could not be reached for comment. Officials from the Ministry of Labour and Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong also could not be reached.

Firms training domestic workers bound for Malaysia have in recent weeks come under increasing scrutiny, with allegations of abuse in illegal confinement levied on trainees. One woman who was at the recruitment agency T&P broke both of her legs after trying to escape by jumping from a window last month. Another woman died at T&P from a reported heart attack. Her husband complained that she had been sick but the company would not allow her to leave for treatment.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI AND THOMAS MILLER

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