A Memorandum of Understanding aimed at protecting maids sent to Malaysia may make headway in the next two months, a government official has said.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs San Arun said a meeting with Malaysian officials on an MoU is expected to take place in late June or in July.
“We are putting in efforts for the draft of the MoU because it will protect our workers, especially maids. After we have the MoU with each other, the government will allow workers to be sent to Malaysia,” she said at a conference on women migrant workers held from Thursday to Saturday in Malaysia.
A ban was imposed on sending Cambodian domestic workers to Malaysia in October after a rash of abuses.
San Arun’s comments came as labour officials from ASEAN member states met in Phnom Penh over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters before yesterday’s 8th ASEAN Senior Labour Officials Meeting, Dato’ Zainal Rahim Bin Seman, Malaysian secretary-general at the Ministry of Human Resources, denied abuse of Cambodian maids in Malaysia was as bad as reported.
“There haven’t been many problems with Cambodian migrant workers in Malaysia recently,” he said.
His government, however, wanted to improve conditions for those who chose to travel to the country for work.
“We want to have some guidelines in place that can engage Cambodian workers, especially maids. We want them to go to induction courses so both parties – Malaysian employers and workers from Cambodia – will better understand the issues.”
Chhay Kosal, an official at the Cambodian Embassy in Malaysia, questioned Malaysia’s willingness to sign off on an MoU when supportive mechanisms had not been put in place.
“If we have an MoU without any mechanisms and the government allows the sending of maids to Malaysia, there will be problems of maid being abused or exploited,” he said.
Setting up a database of the maids’ details and placements would help the embassy assist them when they ran into problems, he said.
According to a report by human rights group Adhoc, published by the Post in March, reports of female migrant workers being abused in Malaysia were higher than ever last year.
In most cases, the report states, abuse against victims first took place as they were trained as domestic workers in Cambodia and continued or worsened when they worked in Malaysia.
Speaking after the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers meeting on Friday, chairman Chap Rithy, the under-secretary at Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said migrant workers often found themselves in vulnerable situations.
“Migrant workers, particularly children and women, are facing trafficking, drug abuse and exploitation,” Chap Rithy said.
To protect and promote migrant workers’ rights, ASEAN leaders issued a joint declaration in 2007 in the Philippines that defined the obligation of both sending and receiving countries, he said.