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Report examines risks to migrant workers

Chou Bun Eng, the permanent vice chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking Persons, speaks yesterday at a report launch in Phnom Penh.
Chou Bun Eng, the permanent vice chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking Persons, speaks yesterday at a report launch in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Report examines risks to migrant workers

A new report has found nearly three-quarters of people who migrate to work internally in Cambodia leave home with no idea of what kind of job, if any, they will get – increasing the chance they could become victims of human trafficking.

The Open Institute report – Internal Migration Patterns and Practices of Low-Skilled and Unskilled Workers in Cambodia – found just 28 percent of 315 internal migrant workers in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk and Svay Rieng had travelled safely with job information.

Researchers also interviewed 239 human resources managers in the same four provinces in four sectors – manufacturing, hospitality, construction and security – and found at least two-thirds of participating companies had ready jobs available but had difficulty finding workers.

Most workers, the report noted, received job information from relatives or friends.

“A significant number of potential workers lacked access to trusted information,” said Phong Kimchhoy, a researcher at the Open Institute. “We want them to be more active in researching before migrating. This can reduce human trafficking.”

However, the report’s finding annoyed at least one government official. During an event yesterday to present the results, Ouk Ravuth, head of the Ministry of Labour’s department of employment and manpower, became defensive, and said the report covered only four provinces, which meant it did not reflect the national picture.

“It’s not quite right,” he said, adding that prospective workers could get information from the National Employment Agency’s broadcasts on radio and television. He then suggested the researchers amend their report before publishing it.

“Collect information from the government so you can understand the scope of what the government has done,” he said. Ravuth declined to comment after the event, and Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour couldn’t be reached. Although researchers said the full report would be made available after the event, it didn’t appear on the Open Institute’s website until after 6pm.

Minutes earlier, Federico Barreras, the project manager for the counter trafficking-in-persons project at the Open Institute, said that was because the executive summary had not been finalised and was still being edited. He said the editing was not due to Ravuth’s comments but to ensure the “writing is well-done”.

And, he added, while many workers were not getting the information they needed about work, “this doesn’t mean the NEA is not doing its job”.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer with labour rights group Central, said the report likely did reflect the national situation as people in rural areas were typically unaware of the risks.

“They know nothing about how to migrate safely,” he said.

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